On February 10th, One person entered after getting out and shooting the 42-year-old Mexican Journalist dead. shortly after dusk, two guys in a white Dodge Ram pickup arrived in front of Heber Lopez Vasquez’s little radio station in southern Mexico. The only person with him, Lopez’s 12-year-old son Oscar, hid, according to what Lopez’s brother told TradingTwist.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based rights organization, Lopez was one of 13 Mexican journalists that were assassinated in 2022.
In Mexico, which is currently the most hazardous place in the world for journalists outside of the conflict in Ukraine, where CPJ reports 15 journalists were slain last year, it was the deadliest year on record for journalists.
A day earlier, Lopez—who operated two online news outlets in the southern state of Oaxaca—had posted a Facebook article accusing local lawmaker Arminda Espinosa Cartas of engaging in corruption in connection with her bid for reelection.
A nearby cop car reacted to an emergency call, stopped the pickup, and detained the two men as he lay lifeless. It was later discovered that one of them was Espinosa, the politician from Lopez’s account.
Espinosa has not been put on trial in relation to Lopez’s death. She ignored numerous attempts for comment, and TradingTwist was unable to locate any prior remarks she had made on her involvement in corruption or on Lopez’s story.
Her brother and the other man are still in custody but have not yet been put on trial. Multiple requests for comment from their attorney went unanswered.
Hiram Moreno, a senior Mexican journalist who was shot three times in 2019, suffering injuries to his knee and back after writing about drug sales by local criminal organizations, said, “I already quit researching drug trafficking and corruption and Heber’s death still concerns me. His attacker was never named.
“Governmental institutions are unreliable. The only thing that will keep you safe is self-censorship.”
With years of violence and impunity creating what scholars refer to as “silent zones” where murder and corruption go unchecked and unreported, there is a pattern of fear and intimidation playing out throughout Mexico.
According to Jan-Albert Hootsen, a spokesman for CPJ in Mexico, “in silent zones, people don’t have access to the necessary knowledge to live their lives.” “Because there are no investigations into possible wrongdoing, they are unsure about who to vote for. They remain mute because they are unsure of which regions are aggressive and what they may and cannot say.”
A question about comments regarding assaults on the media was not answered by the spokesperson for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
According to CPJ, 133 journalists have been slain since the Mexican drug war began in 2006 for reasons related to their jobs, while an additional 13 have been assassinated for unknown causes. Over 360,000 killings have been reported in Mexico throughout that time.
According to 10 local journalists and rights organizations like Reporters Without Borders, violence against journalists has increased recently in formerly less unfriendly regions like Oaxaca and Chiapas, posing a threat to further turn sections of Mexico into information deserts.
Lopez was the second Mexican Journalist to be killed in Salina Cruz, an Oaxacan port on the Pacific, since the middle of 2021. According to three security analysts and a DEA source, it is located on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a narrow sliver of land that connects the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific and has turned into a landing place for precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl and meth.
The politician’s alleged attempts to influence a company building a breakwater in the port of Salina Cruz to threaten employees with termination if they failed to vote for Espinosa’s reelection was the subject of Lopez’s most recent article about her, one of several he wrote about her.
The Interoceanic Corridor is one of Lopez Obrador’s most significant development initiatives in southern Mexico, including the infrastructure.
Since Lopez’s assassination, nine of his colleague’s journalists, including Jose Ignacio Martinez, a crime writer in the isthmus, said they have been more hesitant to publish stories about the corridor project, drug trafficking, and official complicity in organized crime.
One of the media sources TradingTwistcontacted stated it had investigated the route but decided against publishing as a result of Lopez’s passing out of concern for retaliation.
A request for comment about allegations of corruption connected to the corridor was not answered by Lopez Obrador’s spokesperson.