Reporters Without Borders today called on the federal authorities to relaunch the investigation into the April 2005 disappearance of journalist Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the daily El Imparcial in Hermosillo, in the northwestern state of Sonora, after a municipal police officer, Lt. Jesús Francisco Ayala Valenzuela, told the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) on 17 January that local authorities were involved.
The press freedom organisation also urged the federal authorities to place the police officer under witness protection.
“Ayala’s accusations against the associates of Sonora governor Eduardo Bours are extremely serious,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They tend to confirm the link between Jiménez’s disappearance - and probable murder - and his investigations into collusion between state officials and drug traffickers.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The federal authorities cannot just forget the political dimension of this case. Governor Bours and his associates will have to explain themselves at the highest level. We also request special protection for the witness. Solving this case will be a test for the new government and its fight against impunity.”
In September 2004, Jiménez wrote about the questionable release by the police of Raúl “El 9” Enriquez Parra, the head of a criminal gang known both as “Los Números” and as “Los Güeritos” (The Fair-Haired Ones) despite the fact that drugs and firearms had just been found in his car. Jiménez subsequently obtained recording of phone calls that tended to confirm the existence of links between Enriquez and the governor’s entourage. Jiménez went missing on the night of 2 April 2005 in Hermosillo as he was about to meet with one of his sources.
Ayala has given two statements this month - one to the CNDH and one to the federal justice ministry (Procuraduría General de la República) - confirming Jiménez’s revelations. He also named former Navojoa police chief Luis Octavio Gastelúm Villegas (for who he worked as a driver), judicial police officers Ricardo Tapia Chan and Pedro Córdova Herrera (a friend of “El 9”), local prosecutor Abel Murrieta and Ricardo Bours (the brother of Sonora’s governor) as the people behind Jiménez’s abduction.
According to the weekly Proceso, Ayala has testified that his former superior, Gastelúm Villegas, ordered a subordinate and friend, Félix Moroyoqui, to murder Jiménez and dispose of the body. An alleged hit-man for “El 9,” Moroyoqui is said to have used eight people, some of them policemen, to carry out the job.
Two and a half months after Jiménez went missing, the bodies of Moroyoqui and his eight accomplices were themselves found near Ciudad Obregón on 14 May 2005, four days after they in turn had gone missing. According to Ayala, Bours and his associates had wanted to get rid off witnesses who knew too much.
Ayala says he was repeatedly threatened and requested protection from Governor Bours in vain before finally fleeing and going into hiding. Jiménez’s body has never been found.