~ This article was originally published by Imagen de Veracruz on May 5, 2015 ~
TEZONAPA, Veracruz–. “If we fail to report abuse, I swear we won’t move forward. That’s what Armando Saldaña Morales used to say on his program, “La grilla, punto y debate” (loosely translated as “Political Points and Debate”), a radio show broadcast Saturday evenings on a Tierra Blanca radio station.
Saldaña’s journalism knew no political or cultural borders. During the day he hosted his radio show on Ke Buena 100.9 FM in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz and in the afternoon he crossed over to neighboring Oaxaca to report on the community of Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa.
After 25 years as a journalist, Saldaña – as all the reporters from the Cuenca de Papaloapan knew him – was tortured and shot. His death makes him the twelfth journalist from Veracruz murdered in the last four years.
Armando Saldaña left his home on Sunday 3 May around ten o’clock. He was headed to Acatlán. In the afternoon he would return together with his wife to Córdoba, Veracruz. He never made the trip.
His wife, María Isabel Jasso was not worried. His tough workdays were not unusual.
The sad news arrived at seven o’clock at night on Monday 4 May. The K-Buena host had been found dead from gunshots. There were signs of torture.
The discovery of his body in San José Cosolapa, Oaxaca, mobilized the Oaxaca State Prosecutor whose officials removed the body to begin investigating.
But Armando Saldaña was born and lived in Laguna Chica, a community of 2,000 residents that belongs to Tezonapa, a municipality in Veracruz adjoining Cosolapa, Oaxaca. The border between the two states is Jiquilpan Street. A small sign is the only thing that indicates the state border.
The population of both places exceeds 20,000 people. They share a commercial and cultural life without political distinctions. The 51-year old journalist fully recognized the social mix.
But he was also aware that barely nine months ago, in August 2014, Octavio Rojas Hernández was murdered, reporter for newspaper El Buen Tono and the town of Cosolapa’s press officer.
The most substantial lead in the Rojás Hernández murder comes from an article he published about petroleum theft by Mexico’s Ministry of Defense (SEDENA).
In the text, he quoted a Mexican Army source implicating Fermín Hernández Venegas, Cosolapa’s police chief as an accomplice of the group of pipeline robbers.
Last 17 April, Hernández Venegas was under investigation by the Federal Attorney General. An armed group killed him on the road between Almolonga and Refugio Viejo.
“We don’t owe anybody anything,” says Saldaña Morales’s widow, María Isabel Jasso, when she’s questioned about the possible causes of the attack on her husband. She ignores any links between the murders of Octavio Rojas and Fermín Hernández.
“We don’t have anybody to blame. One of my daughters is in Actalán going round in circles … It is unjust. We know that they must investigate but we’d rather put our trust in divine justice.”
The townships of Tezonapa and Cosolapa are joined in a region surrounded by small hills that punctuate the flat land of the Cuenca de Papaloapan.
The humidity is propitious for sowing sugarcane, coffee and other tropical crops. You can see this activity from the devastated state highways that connect the sugar mills of Motzorongo, Omealca and La Providencia.
Even in spite of the sugar industry and its many sugar plantations, the townships in the Cuenca lack good public services – health, security, education – and transportation links are not in good condition, either.
“He spoke about problems facing the community and also received complaints from people in the places he visited,” says Marslene Saldaña Jasso, Armando’s daughter.
On his Ke Buena radio show and on the newscasts on the Xalapa station, Maquina Tropica 97.7 FM, he recounted political events, social movements and protests from the two regions whose residents think they have been “forgotten” by each of the state’s governments.
The official disinterest in resolving social issues shows up in the lack of co-operation between the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca about a crime attacking freedom of expression.
Until five o’clock on Tuesday morning, neither of the state’s prosecutors had visited the journalist’s home to follow up on the case and investigate whether his death could be related to his journalism.
Even though Saldaña was a journalist from Veracruz, the State Commission to Protect and Assist Journalists (CEAPP) in Veracruz has not contacted the Saldaña Jasso family.
“He always wanted to be on the radio. He began by seeking out experiences and facts and that’s how he practiced journalism, until his final days,” says his wife, María Isabel. She remembers Saldaña visiting media outlets throughout the region, for his work at El Sol de Córdoba and reports for XEFU in Cosamaloapan.
Beyond his reporting tasks and to bring enough money home he sold advertising space. This meant that he had to visit town councils to draw up advertising agreements.
“What I can tell you is that each time he said something he did so based on arguments. The truth is that we can’t explain the reasons why anybody would want to do this to him.”
Armando Saldaña’s body will stay at his home until Wednesday morning. Then he will be buried in the cemetery at Laguna Chica, the community where he grew up selling coffee and where he raised three daughters with María Isabel, a nurse originally from Tamaulipas.
Journalist Israel Hernández reports for newspaper Imagen de Veracruz. Follow the news outlet on Twitter @ImagendeVer. This article first appeared under the title, “Armando Saldaña, periodista sin fronteras,” http://imagendeveracruz.com.mx/resumen.php?id=13932.
TBI Translator Patrick Timmons (@patricktimmons) is a freelance journalist, independent human rights investigator, and adjunct professor of Political Science and faculty affiliate at the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.