Impunity in Mexico: Remembering Javier Valdez

“Te Van a Matar”

by Melissa del Bosque

“They are going to kill you,” were the words Javier Valdez chose to begin his weekly column less than two months before the hired gunmen ended his life in front of Río Doce, the newspaper he’d helped found in 2003.

“Cabrón, cuídate. Estos güeyes no tienen madre. Son unos malditos.”

Valdez’s writing cut through the cynicism, the impunity, the mafia politics and malignant corruption like a switchblade. “I am not a journalist of silence,” he said in an interview with CPJ in 2011 after receiving the International Press Freedom Award. “There are newspapers that count the dead, that count the bullets … at Río Doce we count people.”

Valdez wrote stories about the powerful — the “smiling lawmaker who looked like a cash register” and “the mayor flush with funds.” And his pen took note of the working people who were “fucked over every time.” He kept writing the truth as he saw it, even as his colleagues were murdered one by one for doing the same: Regina Martínez, Miroslava Breach, Pedro Tamayo Rosas, Rubén Espinosa, Anabel Flores Salazar and so many others that the list grew over a decade to more than ninety. And almost none of the murders solved or even adequately investigated.

Increasingly, we in the United States have more in common with our colleagues in Mexico than we’d like to believe. Our president calls us an “enemy of the people” for reporting the truth. A growing authoritarianism and corruption threaten our freedom of expression and our democracy, too. The death of a colleague in Mexico is a mortal wound to us all. What can we do?

The U.S. government often jails Mexican journalists seeking political asylum — a practice that has worsened under the Trump administration. Only last month, Martín Mendéz Pineda who had received repeated death threats in Mexico, abandoned his petition for asylum in the United States after more than three months in detention. Write and call your congressional leaders and urge them to change this un-American practice. Also, support nonprofit groups that assist journalists in Mexico under threat. These organizations include Periodistas de a PieArticulo 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). You can also buy Javier’s books, which will help his family.

Above all, we need to remember Javier’s example and speak out against corruption and impunity at every opportunity. We must resist, persist and unite against the attacks on freedom of speech no matter where they hit on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border.