~ This article was originally published by Proceso on May 17, 2016 ~
Translator’s Note — Tensions are running high — again — in the state of Veracruz. Elections for governor and 50 state legislators take place on June 5, 2016. The closely run gubernatorial race attracts attention because it ends the tumultuous term of PRI-ista Javier Duarte. The candidates, and their supporters, are slinging mud at each other. If Veracruz installs another PRI-ista as governor, the PRI will have held the governor’s office since the party formed in 1929. Or, it could be that Veracruz has tired of the PRI, and if voters choose a governor from another party, a political earthquake will shake the Gulf Coast state.
Journalists bear the brunt of the electoral pressure in Veracruz, increasing the risks that confront them, according to the Mexico Office of freedom of expression group Article 19. On Saturday May 14 journalist Manuel Torres of Poza Rica was found dead in the street. Before an unknown assailant killed him with a gunshot to the head, Torres had attended a political rally in Poza Rica. It’s been widely reported that he worked as a journalist and as an assistant to Carlos Ortiz Christfield, a council member belonging to the PRI, the party that rules Mexico and Veracruz.
Torres’ murder means that a few months before the end of Javier Duarte’s gubernatorial term — disastrous for journalists in his state — yet another journalist is dead in Veracruz. TBI documents more than 20 murders and seven disappearances during Duarte’s tenure.
The proximity of elections and a journalist’s murder bring to mind the now infamous killing of Proceso news magazine’s correspondent in Veracruz, Regina Martínez. At the end of April 2012 in Xalapa, the state capital, and in the critical run up to the presidential elections of that year, Martínez’s murder silenced a powerful, independent voice covering elections in Veracruz. The cause of Martínez’s murder has never been linked to the elections, even though in the months before her death she was covering connections between politicians, police, and organized criminal groups.
The electoral context may prove significant but it’s not being brought into much focus by freedom of expression defenders. Veracruz-based reporter Ignacio Carvajal’s article (translated by TBI) calls Torres a journalist of “social causes,” speculating that his murder may be linked to his crime-beat reporting, even though he ceased covering violent crime in summer 2015. The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York treats the elections as inferential to the murder.
Systematic impunity exists in cases of murdered journalists in Mexico and Veracruz is no exception to that observation. The reasons for Torres’ murder will undoubtedly remain murky; the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists reports no clear explanations for eight of the dead journalists in Veracruz. Whatever the cause, the awful refrain rings true again: yet another journalist is dead in Javier Duarte’s Veracruz. -Patrick Timmons
XALAPA, Veracruz. Eighteen days before elections to choose a new state governor, and with 50 seats in the state legislators also up for grabs, a dirty war has broken out between the gubernatorial candidates: Héctor Yunes Landa of the PRI, Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares of the PAN-PRD, and Morena’s Cuitláhuac García Jiménez.
In the case of Yunes Linares, some recordings surfaced this afternoon of a conversation between him and his niece, Andrea Yunes. She’s the daughter of his political adversary and cousin, Héctor Yunes Landa. In the phone call, Andrea calls him “uncle” and complains about the PRI-ista governor Javier Duarte. She calls him a “pig” and says that he bankrupted the state. He hasn’t governed, she said, and he should be in jail.
The PAN-PRD candidate, Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares revealed the existence of the phone conversations after a weekend when the PRI-ista candidate called him “sexually troubled.” His attack came in response to information published by various media outlets concerning writer Lydia Cacho’s allegations, presented in her book Los demonios del Eden. Cacho emphasized the friendship between Miguel Ángel Yunes and the PRI’s national leader, Manlio Fabio Beltrones with the paedophile Jean Succar Kuri.
In the fewer than 20 days remaining before the elections to decide who will govern the state for the next two years, social media teems with “dirty” propaganda attacks against Morena’s candidate, Cuitláhuac García Jiménez. The barrage draws attention to an alleged pact with Javier Duarte — approved by Morena’s national leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador — a die-hard critic of the PRI-ista governor — to erase Yunes Linares’s lead.
Tweets have also appeared showing García Jiménez at one of Xico’s traditional celebrations, called the xiqueñada, a festivity where they mistreat bulls. The photographs have been sent to animal protection organizations.
In the three gubernatorial debates held until now, the Yunes cousins spent time accusing each other of mismanaging funds, damaging cultural heritage, illegal enrichment, ties to organized crime and friendship with Francisco “Pancho” Colorado, currently imprisoned in the U.S. for money laundering for the Zetas.
Facebook and Twitter contain propaganda messages like “NoDesaYunes PAN” [a play on words using the candidate’s name and that of PAN to literally mean “Don’t Breakfast on Bread”], “Tumbando Caña” and “Veracruz Mothers Against Child Abuse.” There are also videos cutting down the PAN-PRD candidate for his ties to pedophile businessmen, and also about the scandal of the Panama Papers because his son, Omar Yunes Márquez, has been involved.
There are also attacks on the properties owned by Yunes Linares, the former PRI-ista now of the PAN-PRD alliance, and his other son, Miguel Angel Yunes Marquez, former PAN-ista mayor of Boca del Rio. Yunes Márquez owns a luxurious mansion in Alvarado, in a residential neighborhood known as El Estero.
Similarly, there are other accounts called “Guerracruz” and “Despierta Veracruz, Ni un Voto al PRI” [“Wake up Veracruz, Don’t Vote for the PRI”]. Yunes Linares supporters run these accounts and they upload news videos severely critical of Governor Javier Duarte and Héctor Yunes Landa.
Reporter Noé Zavaleta is Proceso’s correspondent in Veracruz. This article was originally published under the title “Sube de tono la ‘guerra sucia’ entre candidatos al gobierno de Veracruz” and is available at: http://www.proceso.com.mx/440925/sube-tono-la-guerra-sucia-candidatos-al-gobierno-veracruz
Translator Patrick Timmons is a lecturer in history at El Paso Community College in Texas. He collaborates with the Trans-Border Institute on its Freedom of Expression Project. He has been monitoring attacks on freedom of expression in Veracruz since 2012.