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Mexico19 May 2004

Man accused of journalist’s murder killed in prison

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned at the killing in prison of Mario Medina Vázquez, whom police had charged with the 19 March murder of journalist Roberto Javier Mora García. The suspect, who has been held since 28 March, was stabbed by a fellow prisoner

"We call on you to do everything possible to investigate the circumstances of the death of Mario Medina Vázquez and the motive for the murder," the international press freedom organisation wrote to Ramón Duron Ruiz, prosecutor-general for Tamaulipas State.

"The investigation should particularly decide whether this was a ordinary crime or a deliberate act linked to the García case. "The authorities should also explain why Vázquez, a US national, had not been placed on a top security wing as the US Consulate had asked.

"This murder casts a new shadow on this investigation into the journalist García’s murder", it added. Vázquez was imprisoned after having confessed. He later said that he had been tortured. Police said that he had killed the journalist for reasons of jealousy.

"Since García, managing editor of the local daily El Mañana, often exposed drug trafficking in the region, we urge you not to rule out a murder committed because of this work," the organisation concluded.

Stabbed 30 times
Roberto Herrera González used a weapon he made himself to stab Vásquez about 30 times on 13 May 2004 in Cereso Prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas State. He at first claimed that the journalist had wrongly accused him of a murder, before changing his story. González is in jail for two murders and drug possession.

The US authorities in Washington on 17 May demanded an investigation into the death of their citizen and protested about the failure to take the safety precautions demanded by the its consulate. Tamaulipas State prosecutor, Francisco Cayuela, offered his resignation to the governor and was immediately replaced. In its 18 May online edition,El Mañana reported that Hiram Oliveros Ortiz, the second murder suspect in the case has been put under round-the-clock surveillance in a special wing of the prison.

Vázquez was arrested on 28 March with his domestic partner, Hiram Oliveros Ortiz. Police said that Vázquez, who believed he was having a relationship with García, had killed the journalist for reasons of jealousy. Vázquez himself denied this version of events and said he had been tortured to obtain a confession.

García was murdered in front of his home in the early hours of 19 March 2004. His body was found around 15 metres from his car, with around 20 knife wounds. The journalist had published several articles about the Gulf Cartel, a regional drug-trafficking organisation. He also exposed suspected involvement by police and local officials along with the methods of the "Zetas" - former police officers who extort money for drug-traffickers from local businessmen. He also pointed the finger at the authorities over the complete impunity in Tamaulipas State. García was respected locally as a serious journalist who carried out his investigations rigorously.

The In Memoriam Commission
Reporters Without Borders is a member of the In Memoriam Comission set up by six Mexican and international press freedom organisations, to ensure a follow-up to the investigation. A delegation from the commission went to Tamaulipas State at the end of April to make a first report on the progress of the investigation. It will report before the end of May.

Apart from Reporters Without Borders, the five other members are Mexican organisations, Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CEFPDH), Libertad de Información-México (LIMAC), Centro de Periodismo y Etica Pública (CEPET) and international bodies, PEN Club and Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC).

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