~ This article was originally published by SinEmbargo on August 12, 2015 ~
Indalecio Benítez was ambushed, along with his family, by a group of armed men on August 1, 2014, in the municipality of Luvianos in the State of Mexico. That night, the bursts from the AK-47 reached his eldest son, a boy of only 12.
Since then, the director of Calentana Mexiquense 98.1 FM has dedicated himself to peacefully demanding justice from the government of Mexico State, headed by Eruviel Ávila Villegas of the PRI, and from the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, a branch of the Interior Ministry.
But in a year, the authorities have barely advanced, and now may close the case. Nevertheless, Indalecio, in exile from Luvianos, a region at the junction of Mexico State, Michoacán, and Guerrero, has the support of other activists and has continued demanding punishment for the perpetrators of a tragedy that has only grown larger thanks to the reigning impunity.
Mexico City, August 12 (SinEmbargo). – It was common to see unknown cars outside the radio station. Normally people swore their love over the air on Saturdays. Many shopkeepers, more men than women, came around midnight to ask Indalecio to play “Las mañanitas” [Happy Birthday] or send out some other ballad with a dedication. But it all turned dark the night of August 1, 2014, when a group of heavily armed masked men, in a stolen taxi, attacked the founder and director of Calentana Mexiquense 98.1 FM.
There were five kids waiting outside the community radio station. When he realized they were armed with AK-47s, the radio host accelerated. They only shot once. The bullet struck the truck in which Indalecio Benítez, his wife, and children were traveling.
Two minutes later they arrived at the headquarters of the Mexican Marines in Luvianos, Mexico State. It did not matter, the bullet had fragmented and three shards had punctured the heart of Juan Diego Benítez, who died instantly.
“Is everyone alright?” asked the father. “No dad, Diego fainted,” shouted the youngest son. Indalecio Benítez got out of the car while the Marines shouted at him and demanded identification. He took his son’s pulse, but there was nothing. The boy was only 12.
The life of the radio host and of his family was cut short by organized crime and with it, the right to information for the residents of that zone of Mexico State.
After the murder of his son the journalist spent hours in front of the microphone denouncing the barbarous crime. “I have his body now, he is here, a boy just 12 years, just 12 years old; I do not know what to say, but I invite you to come, we holding his wake today and tomorrow, and we will bury him on Monday in the afternoon.”
“I feel a great impotence, such a great impotence, you cannot imagine, seeing my sons crying, the youngest ones, because they took the oldest; only 12 years old, a boy who had was just about to begin the second year of secondary school, they took him from me in such a cowardly way, shooting at us from behind, I feel impotent,” Benítez said on the air.
He asserted that he had forgiven Juan Diego’s killers. “I forgive them. God will know if they are truly forgiven and give them their sentence,” Indalecio said in an interview with SinEmbargo. He added, “what I have not abandoned is justice for my son. That, never. I will do whatever is necessary to get it, because I believe in God and when he judges us all and takes accounts, they will have to face trial and I will be able to say that I forgave them but that I always sought justice in a peaceful way.”
Currently Indalecio and his family are in self-imposed exile, after the Mexico State government, headed by Governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas, failed to provide protection. Where they are hiding is unclear, and from a distance they have been following the investigation into who planned and carried out the attack that August.
–Have there been any advances in the investigation?
–“Well, yes, but if they want to close the case now they can, because three of the suspects are dead, and two are in jail. But the people behind the attack have not been found. Now it is time to see how well the new Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) actually works. We are going to watch how they handle the case, and with the advice of the activists who are helping us demand justice we are going to see that things are done as they should be.”
–Who attacked you?
–They were kids. They weren’t even old enough to vote.
–Have there been anomalies in the investigation?
–Sometimes I think so, but when I see for sure that they are going that way, I will tell you. I am observing them.
The municipality of Luvianos, at the south of Mexico State, is in the Tierra Caliente region where the states of Guerrero and Michoacán intersect. It is considered a rich part of Mexico State, since its fertile soil and rivers produce harvests of all kinds, principally tomatillos, and the cattle raised there are in much demand.
A few years ago there was a dispute between organized crime groups for the municipality, since it was the gateway to cities in the country’s center, and its mountains were the perfect area for cooking synthetic drugs or cultivating opium poppies.
According to statistics from the National System of Public Security (SESNSP), from January to April of this year, Mexico State registered 1,257 homicides.
In its “Report on victims of homicide, kidnapping, and extortion, 2015”, the SESNSP indicated that Mexico State ranks first with 272 cases, followed by Jalisco with 266, the Federal District with 214, and Nuevo León with 178.
Indalecio Benítez narrates how during the time of his exile he has followed his son’s case closely, and although he is not a reporter by trade, he is self-taught and has undertaken investigations to prevent the crime from going unpunished, despite the fact that he is under the protection of the Interior Ministry’s mechanism for the protection of human rights activists and journalists.
–Why did they want to attack you?
–I do not know, but I have been a rock in the shoe of many people. I have a broadcasting company and we also had a local newspaper where we denounced a lot of things. In 1988 we joined the struggle against the electoral fraud [during the disputed presidential election]. Years ago we also denounced abuses by state forces who were beating our young people and arbitrarily detaining them.
–What did you do after the death of your son?
–From the moment we were in the cemetery burying my son everyone told me that we should fight back, do battle, create a self-defense group. I had the support of a lot of people, but what we did instead was leave for Toluca where we spent several days making the authorities pay attention to us. I have my beliefs, and for there to be peace on earth and for the dead to rest, you have to grant forgiveness, and so I decided to take the path of peaceful struggle.
–What do you expect from the authorities?
–I will never renounce my search for justice, no matter who is involved. The authorities should not forget this. This is what law is for, this is what judges are for, this is what prosecutors are for… so they can do their jobs, and I will not let them slack, I will not give up. Fear does not get us anywhere, and with the work we have done we will be able to prevent any attempt to thwart the investigation.
The community radio station of Calentana Mexiquense 98.1 FM has not stopped transmitting for a single day in the two years since its creation, and has redoubled its efforts following the death of Juan Diego Benítez. If it has provided an informational service, its principle strength is musical and cultural programming. Many lovers continue to request songs, as they did before the attack, which—according to the statements of the two jailed suspects—was because the five masked youths wanted to take the station by force to broadcast a death threat to their enemies.
Sergio Rincón writes for SinEmbargo in Mexico City. This article was originally published under the title “Indalecio, Locutor autoexiliado de Luvianos, pide justicia para su hijo” and is available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/12-08-2015/1446345
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute