Evidence – by Juan Villoro (Reforma)


 ~ This essay was originally published by Reforma on August 7, 2015 ~


The official information about the multiple homicides in the Narvarte can only be explained by blaming the victims.

Seen through its looking-glass reflection, Mexico discards the obvious. A certainty in other places, here it is just another cause for opinion. We live in a state of mystification, imagining the motives behind these acts. The distortion of the real is our criteria for truth.

Five people were murdered in the Narvarte neighborhood of Mexico City on July 31, among them the activist Nadia Vera and the photojournalist Rubén Espinosa. The multihomicidio (as it’s being called in the Mexican press) in a residential area, with signs of torture and rape, casts a pall over living conditions in the capital.

Espinosa worked in Veracruz for the news magazine Proceso. Since Javier Duarte began governing the state, fifteen journalists have been murdered, among them Regina Martínez who also worked for Proceso. One does not need any more information to know that we are in the middle of a political catastrophe. Whatever he does in other areas, Duarte cannot give a positive account of his administration. A modern society cannot tolerate the systematic murder of journalists.

The preceding paragraph belongs to the realm of evidence. But unfortunately, in this nation of paradoxes, it has to be explained. If our reality were agreeable, we would believe in it. But the signs of violence and corruption do not allow us to accept that we belong to that world. An impulsive defense lets us suppose that, if somebody loses their life, it was because they “took the wrong path” (and since, we won’t do the same, we think we are safe). We protect ourselves from evil by keeping it in a place apart from ourselves.

For more on Veracruz and violence against journalists see the following:

The suspicion surrounding the fallen makes their fate seem, if not warranted, then at least explicable. Criminalizing the victims is a precept of denial that allows one to endure an oppressive context.

With the horror, this reflection bedevils its institutions. With the murders in the Narvarte, the Prosecutors’ office in the D.F. has offered information that does not change what happened but distorts how they are seen. The prosecutor insists that the victims had had a lengthy reunion and that the door of the apartment was not forced. He also underlined the importance of performing a toxicology study on the bodies. This suggests a spree that spiraled out of control. What is certain is that the murderers arrived the day after the late night party; that they entered through the door, which they might have done under any subterfuge. Whatever the victims consumed does not justify their demise.

The prosecutor also mentioned robbery as a motive. The telephones were missing and money taken from wallets. In the video that recorded the murderers, one of them was carrying a suitcase. (Translator’s note: Four or five days after Villoro published this essay, the Mexico City prosecutor’s office changed its story about what items stolen from the apartment: neither cellphones nor computers had been taken. See: Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, La PGJDF construye un caso de robo y simula investigación política, denuncian activistas,SinEmbargo.mx, 12 August 2015, and Francisco Goldman, News Desk: Who Killed Rubén Espinosa and Nadia Vera?newyorker.com 14 August 2015).

And the political angle? It’s unforgivable that the federal prosecutor who has the power to investigate crimes against journalists has not asserted federal jurisdiction. Espinosa had been a victim of threats and he sought refuge in the DF where he asked for help from Article 19, a press freedom non-profit.

His situation was one of being harassed, struggling with post-traumatic stress. Vera had also been subjected to attacks and threats.

Torture exacted before a gunshot to the head is a sign of revenge. Organized crime has unleashed a violence marked with an authentic grammar; the style of the murders follows a precise code.

We are not facing a simple robbery. In every case, asserting jurisdiction stems from the principal crime (the telephone of a journalist is worth more for its address book than its black market value).

What responsibility does Governor Duarte bear? The fifteen murders of journalists have occurred in various circumstances. What is undeniable is that the Governor has not done anything to clarify them in a satisfactory way, nor has he done anything to stop them from happening. Along with that, the state government of Veracruz has harassed the independent press. In 2011, the local Congress approved “Duarte’s Law”, penalizing with a four year prison term anybody who upset public order using social networks to report on violence (it took Mexico’s Supreme Court to rescind the law).

To ingratiate himself with the media, Duarte raffled cars (one journalist was assassinated before he could claim his) and gave about a million dollars each year to the Hay Festival to talk about freedom of expression. A short while ago he told journalists to “behave,” implying that the messengers bear sole responsibility for what their executioners did to them.

Duarte governs in a climate that permits attacks on journalists that go unpunished. That is a fact.

In his novel, Lejos de Veracruz (Far from Veracruz), Enrique Vila-Matas celebrates this region from a distance: for journalists, being “far from Veracruz” has become a way to survive.

Shamefully, however, in this country of unrealities, Veracruz is everywhere.

[fruitful_sep]Writer and journalist Juan Villoro is the prize-winning author of El Testigo (2004). His book, The Guilty, translated by Kimi Traube was published on June 15, 2015. This article was first published in Reforma and has been republished online at: http://foroparalelodemilenioelotroforo.blogspot.com/2015/08/juan-villoro-evidencias.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator based in the Americas. He is the author of Mexican Pomp and British Circumstances” about the scandal of the Hay Festival withdrawing from Xalapa, Veracruz that appeared in NACLA on March 18, 2015. He has accompanied at-risk Mexican journalists in Veracruz since 2012.

About Michael Lettieri

Program Officer at the Trans-Border Institute

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