Journalist Manuel Torres Buried in Poza Rica, Veracruz; Suggestions he covered organized crime are rejected – by Eirinet Gómez (La Jornada)

~ This article was first published by La Jornada on May 16, 2016 ~

 The hypertext links have been added to the original story to aid the understanding of a global English-speaking readership about the murder of a local journalist in Veracruz.


POZA RICA, Veracruz. — The funeral cortege carrying the body of Manuel Torres González, a journalist murdered in this city last Saturday, arrived at the Santísima Trinidad cemetery to one side of the Poza Rica-Coatzintla highway. The journalist’s widow, his family members and colleagues led the procession.

Torres González worked for seven years as the TV Azteca in Veracruz correspondent. He also provided political commentary to Radiofórmua. Journalists in the region considered him an amusing wit.

“Manuel was cautions with information. He did not like problems. He did not like reporting about organized crime. He preferred to cover other things, like criticizing politicians and bureaucrats,” says editor Jesús Villanueva Hernández of Semanario Presente, a Poza Rica-based news outlet.

A year and a half ago Torres González set up the MT news website, using his initials for its name. Journalist colleagues teased him that it really stood for “Movimiento Territorial [Territorial Movement].”

Torres González also worked as an assistant to Juan Carlos Ortiz Christfield, a Poza Rica councilmember [who belong to Mexico’s ruling party, the PRI]. He sometimes drove him from one place to another when there was no news to cover, Villanueva Hernández mentioned, because of the region’s violence.

In August 2015, the offices of Villanueva Hernández’s news website were shot at. The authorities found 128 casings for an AR-15 rifle at the scene.

Last Saturday morning, Manuel Torres covered an event at Canacintra, the Chamber of Industrial Commerce. From there, he proceeded to an event of the Green Party (PVEM) where he met up with councilmember Carlos Christfield who gave him a ride to 2 de Abril Street, near the municipal transit offices. The journalist got out of his vehicle and continued on foot.

He hadn’t gone more than two blocks when a man approached him and shot him in the head. His body stayed splayed on the asphalt.

Villanueva Hernández asks: Where were the transit police who always stand guard duty in front of the offices? Where are their security camera videos? Why are their no eyewitnesses?

At the burial site, Manuel Torres’s colleagues recall the words of Governor Javier Duarte [at a breakfast for the press in 2015 in Poza Rica]: “Don’t confuse freedom of expression with giving delinquents media coverage. ”

Manuel Torres and Jesús Villanueva went to Duarte’s 2015 press breakfast. Villanueva remembers that local journalists attended with high expectations about the meeting.

“It was meant to be a celebration of freedom of expression. We believed finally that a governor had come to northern Veracruz to celebrate freedom of expression like they do in Xalapa. There they raffle cars and refrigerators at such events. But instead of that we got told off by the governor for an hour and a half,” Villanueva emphasized.

A day after that speech the Fuerza Civil [a revamped, militarized statewide police force] entered Poza Rica. Insecurity and violence surged as a result, with the worst episodes occurring in recent months.

[fruitful_sep]Journalist Eirinet Gómez is a Veracruz-based correspondent for La Jornada.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a lecturer in history at El Paso Community College, Texas. He collaborates with TBI’s Freedom of Expression Project. He has been documenting the murders of journalists in Veracruz since 2012.

About Michael Lettieri

Program Officer at the Trans-Border Institute

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