IMPUNITY AND JOURNALIST KILLING IN MEXICO: Four Years On and No Advance in Investigation of Murdered DIARIO Photojournalist – by Gabriela Minjáres and Luz del Carmen Sosa (EL DIARIO)

This article was published on 15 September 2014.


Four years on and the investigation of the murder of Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, El Diario photojournalist, has still not produced any results.

“The truth is that there is not much progress in this case. I don’t even know who has the case file. But no, there’s no great progress, I am sure of that,” said Chihuahua state prosecutor Jorge González Nicolás in an interview.

Francisco Santiago Orozco knows that. He is Luis Carlos’s older brother. His family has not even received a single phone call from the Specialized Unit for Crimes Against Life to deal with open case file number 23277/10 for murder.

Like him, his other family members rail against the absence of investigation and lack of justice.

In a letter titled, “Four Years of Forgetting,” Luis Carlos’s family questioned why authorities abandoned the investigation into the murder that took place on 16 September 2010 and to date has not identified those responsible.

“Your memory is in our hearts and minds. Your memory is in an unresolved case file. Your memory is on a yellowing banner. Your memory is in an infamous phrase: to whom can we turn for justice? Your memory is in four years of forgetting,” says the document distributed for publication yesterday.

In the letter addressed to the photojournalist, who was also an intern at El Diario, they said that in Ciudad Juárez there are not so many murders every day but they are still not cleared up because in Juárez “killing does not bring consequences or punishment” unless it concerns people with political influence.

They also regretted that now public opinion is centered on “overdue and badly executed public works projects” underway in the city that had he lived Luis Carlos would be documenting with his camera. The family said that he loved his work as a photojournalist a passion passed on to his nephew, Erick Franco, who has followed him into journalism.

“But the thing that has least changed is the great hole in our hearts and the uncertainty of knowing who in cold blood could do such a thing to you. God forgive them, because we cannot,” they wrote.

The Facts

Santiago Orozco, 21, was murdered with a shot to the head while his colleague was injured by two gunshots. Both photojournalists were attacked in the parking lot of the business complex next to the Rio Grande Mall located at the intersection of Paseo Triunfo de la República and Adolfo López Mateos just two blocks from this newspaper’s offices.

The attack was perpetrated at around 14:40 in the afternoon of 16 September. Both were traveling in a Nissan Platina with Chihuahua plates belonging to the son of the lawyer of Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson.

Luis Carlos was driving the private car and the other photographer, Carlos Manuel Sánchez Colunga, was traveling in the passenger seat.

As they were traveling from the east to the west inside the parking lot, right in front of a furniture store, they came under attack from a moving vehicle.

The attackers’ car was compact and seemed to be grey. At least two young men were inside the car, according to witness testimony gathered at the scene. Luis Carlos was shot several times, one of them in his face and the other on his left cheek. His death was practically instantaneous.

When he died, the car crashed into two parked cars.

After the attack, the other photographer grabbed his digital camera and pushed himself out through the car door since it was practically jammed by the parked cars.

No Advances

In the letter distributed yesterday by Luis Carlos’s family, they told how four years ago the national festival – today is the anniversary of Mexican Independence – was turned into an “awful nightmare.”

“Sorry for the title of this letter, ‘Four Years of Forgetting,’ because it’s not like that for those of us who love you, rather that we steadfastly promise in our outrage, with a fist on the desk, to demand justice and clarification of your murder,” they added.

So they ask what his life would be like if he were still alive, the moments he would have spent with the family. He might have become a father and would have enjoyed his new nephew, who they said was born last year around this time and bears a striking resemblance to Luis Carlos when he was a baby.

“What has not changed and will continue to be the same is your apartment. Just like you left it. Your leather jacket you cherished is on your motorbike along with the black raincoat you took with you when you went out to the Histeria bar,” they wrote in memory of Luis Carlos.

Access to justice is a right that Francisco Santiago Orozco feels is more distant than ever. It seems impossible to him as a result of the permanent absence of investigations by Chihuahua’s Attorney General (Fiscally General del Estado.)

“They have not called us about anything. The file must be the same,” he said while at the same time condemning the indifference and forgetting about his younger brother’s murder.

In 2010 murders in Juárez rose to more than three thousand. According to information provided by the state’s Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal de Justicia) fewer than nine percent of the case files have been prosecuted for want of investigation. Luis Carlos’s murder is in those files.

The journalistic record has established that, as in the case of Armando Rodríguez – a Diario journalist murdered on 13 November 2008 – several of its assigned investigators and public prosecutors have been murdered.

One of those was prosecutor Mario Ramón González Chavarría, then coordinator of the homicide investigations unit and who was also responsible for cases against some of the murderers captured by the Mexican Army. He was murdered outside his house.

Also murdered in 2012 was Commander José Luis Ruelas who was assigned to the Investigative Services area and was responsible for recovering Sánchez Colunga’s camera, held by the Federal Police at the crime scene.

Up until now the murder case file only contains forensic test results – autopsy, alcohol level, gunshot residue, among others – the interviews with the employees in the parking lot and the description of the video from the business center’s cameras. No investigative lines of inquiry allow for the identification of the murderers. About them the Attorney General knows only that they were traveling in a grey car.

The investigation lasted for a few more days: interviews with friends and acquaintances of Luis Carlos. But it stopped when an interviewee said that he knew the murdered man might have been in trouble because of his work as a journalist. Four years later nobody knows who killed Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco or why he was killed.
[fruitful_sep]Journalists Gabriela Minjáres and Luz del Carmen Sosa report for El Diario de Juárez. Follow Sosa and Minjáres on Twitter @luzysosa and @gaminjares. Under the title of “A 4 años, sin avance investigación del homicidio de fotógrafo de El Diario,” the original article may be found here:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

About Michael Lettieri

Program Officer at the Trans-Border Institute

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