The journalist Raúl Régulo Garza Quirino, who was shot dead on 6 January, is believed to have been a victim of mistaken identity, according to the first results of the investigation into the killing. Investigators now believe his death was not linked to his work as a journalist.
Garza, who worked for the weekly La Última Palabra, had just bought a new black Volkswagen Jetta which he was driving when he died in a hail of bullets a few metres from his home.
The next day, the killers returned to the area where he lived and shot dead one of his neighbours who owned the same model of car. This lends support to the assumption that the second victim was the real target, not the journalist.
According to Miguel Oscar Pérez, managing editor of La Última Palabra, Garza never used his byline on articles.
Perez also told the Centre for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), a partner organization of Reporters Without Borders, that the weekly never published stories on organized crime “since our safety is not guaranteed”.
09.01.12 - Local newspaper reporter gunned down in Los Zetas stronghold
After a particularly deadly 2011 for the Mexican media, Raúl Régulo Garza Quirino, a reporter for the weekly La Última Palabra in Cadereyta, in the northeastern state of Nuevo León, became the first Mexican journalist to be killed in 2012 when he was gunned down after a car chase on 6 January. Garza was also a Cadereyta municipal employee.
“We hope the number of Mexican journalists killed in the space of a decade does not reach the grim total of 100 in 2012, an election year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Mexico could prevent this from happening by taking measures to combat impunity for those responsible for violent crime against journalists.
“That was the message that we and the Centre for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) tried to transmit when we gave the families of slain and disappeared journalists a platform in the capital on 10 December.
“The current show of good intentions by the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) and its head, Gustavo Salas Chávez, must be rapidly translated into reinforcement of its personnel and clarification of its jurisdiction. If the senate approves the bill that the lower house adopted on 11 November making attacks on freedom of information a federal crime, the FEADLE must have enough resources to handle all these cases.”
Garza was driving his car near his home when he found himself being pursued by gunmen in another car. He was gunned down when he tried to seek refuge in a garage owned by relatives. Sixteen impacts from 16 mm bullets were found at the scene. Investigators have so far not suggested any motive for the murder.
Located 37 km from Monterrey, the state capital, Cadereyta is home to one of northern Mexico’s biggest oil refineries and is rife with contraband in stolen petroleum products as well as drug trafficking. It is a stronghold of Los Zetas, a paramilitary group that worked for the Gulf Cartel before becoming an independent criminal organization. A total of 38 employees of the state oil company PEMEX have been reported missing in the region in recent months.
It was in this area that radio journalist Marco Aurelio Martínez Tirejina was kidnapped and killed in July 2010 in a still unsolved murder. According to the Reporters Without Borders tally, 80 journalists have been killed in the past decade and 14 others have disappeared. Most of these killings have gone unpunished.