The arrest of a man accused of the murder of a journalist investigating crime and corruption in Veracruz raises more questions than answers, pointing to the failures of law enforcement and power of criminal groups in the Mexican state.
On October 30, Veracruz’s attorney general announced that police had arrested Jorge Antonio Hernandez Silva, alias “El Silva,” on suspicion of involvement in the April murder of journalist Regina Martinez Perez. The official said that the suspect had confessed to helping another person commit the crime. The man who physically carried out the murder, according to authorities, is Jose Adrian Hernandez Dominguez, alias “El Jarocho,” allegedly Martinez’s romantic partner, who remains at large.
Yet as El Proceso reports, there is reason to doubt Silva’s involvement in Martinez’s murder. The day after his supposed “confession,” the suspect said he had been coerced into admitting guilt by police who tortured him and threatened to kill his mother. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) notes that without the confession, there appears to be little proof of Silva’s involvement, as prosecutors have made no mention of eyewitness, DNA or fingerprint evidence linking him to the scene of the crime. Nevertheless, authorities ordered Silva to be held in pre-trial detention on November 2.
As the CPJ points out, the motive officials have given for the crime is far from clear-cut. Veracruz officials have said alternately that Martinez’s murder was a “crime of passion,” or the result of a robbery, despite the fact that only a few things (cell phones and a television) were taken from her home on the night of her death, and more valuable items were left behind.
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At no point in the investigation have officials said that Martinez’s journalistic work may have been a factor in her death, which is odd considering that she reported extensively on organized crime and police corruption in Veracruz. Given that criminal organizations in Mexico are known to target journalists who are seen as threats to their activities, the fact that investigators have not even acknowledged the possibility that Martinez was killed because of her investigations is surprising. Neither federal officials nor journalists were provided with further information linking Silva to the case, which as the CPJ points out, leads to “questions about what the state had to hide.”
These details suggest that Veracruz authorities could be hastily pinning Martinez’s murder on Silva without proper evidence. It is possible that this is due to political expediency. The reporter’s murder made international headlines, creating an incentive to solve the case as quickly as possible to minimize damage to the state’s image. It is not uncommon for authorities in Mexico to prioritize high-profile cases in response to media shaming and public outrage. In some instances, however, this has caused officials to jump to sketchy conclusions in order to present the case as “solved.” Police have announced on more than one occasion that they have caught the mastermind behind the 2010 massacre of 72 Central American migrants in the north of the country, for example.
The aggressive prosecution of Silva may also speak of the alarming degree of criminal influence over Veracruz’s state institutions. The Zetas, currently the dominant cartel in Veracruz, have deeply penetrated the state police despite repeated efforts to purge the force of corrupt elements.