MEXICO CITY — On Sunday, journalists, press, freedom advocates and family members of the victims marked the one year anniversary of the murder of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, activist Nadia Vera and three other women in Narvarte, a middle-class neighborhood in Mexico City.
In a press conference outside the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office (PGJDF), Alma Espinosa read a statement calling for investigators to find the perpetrators of her brother and the four other victims’ murders. The statement implicated Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Ríos Garza in criminalizing the victims, releasing sensitive information to the press and failing to investigate potential motives for the crime. The victims’ advocates claim that Ríos Garza has neglected key lines of investigation in order to preserve the version of events city authorities announced in the first weeks of the investigation.
A joint statement read at the event said, “A year after the events, we deserve to know who killed Rubén, Nadia, Mile, Alejandra and Yesenia and why.” The city’s version of events implicates three men in the murders, who according to the PGJDF were only in the apartment for 43 minutes. The families assert that more than three people must have been involved in order to carry out the five murders, in particular because the women were all tortured. The PGJDF has not released the full video footage from security cameras outside the building.
The statement also called on Mexico City mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation.
Photojournalist Rubén Espinosa had fled Veracruz to his hometown of Mexico City to escape threats he received due to his work covering State Governor Javier Duarte and social and environmental movements. Nadia Vera was from Comitán, Chiapas and studied at Veracruz University in the state capital of Xalapa. Trained as an anthropologist, she was an activist in Xalapa and like Rubén, left for Mexico City after receiving threats. Yesenia Quiróz and Mile Virginia Martín lived in the apartment in Narvarte along with Nadia. Olivia Alejandra Negrete was a housecleaner at the residence.
In the first days after the crime, city authorities claimed that the motive was to rob a cell phone. Later, they alleged that Martín, a Colombian working in Mexico City, was a drug-trafficker and the murder were the result of a drug-related dispute. However, these lines of investigative were never substantiated. The Colombian community in Mexico City spoke out against the criminalization of Martín, who worked as a model in Mexico, and other Colombians living in the country.
The murders shook the journalistic community in Mexico City, which is generally considered a safe haven from the violence against journalists in other states of Mexico.
Espinosa, who contributed to national magazines such as Proceso and Cuartoscuro had been directly threatened by Veracruz governor Javier Duarte and had denounced the murders of other journalists in the state. Duarte is now under investigation for corruption and misuse of state funds. Press freedom organization Article 19 has recorded 19 cases of journalists killed in Veracruz since 2000. The most recent was on July 20 of this year, when Pedro Tamayo Rosas, who had been assigned state protective services after receiving numerous threats, was killed in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called Veracruz the “most dangerous place in the hemisphere” for journalists.
According to Article 19, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico during the Enrique Peña Nieto administration. This ranks Mexico as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists.
Following the press conference at the PGJDF, a cultural event took place on the street Luz Savigñón in Narvarte, where the murders were committed. Musicians, dancers and performance artists paid tribute to the victims and a plaque was installed in front of the apartment building. Events also took place in Guadalajara, Jalisco and Xalapa, Veracruz to mark the one year anniversary.