Friday, September 23, 2011
The do-nothing prosecutor of Veracruz: Reynaldo Escobar Pérez
Case #1: In late July veteran Veracruz crime reporter Yolanda Ordaz de Cruz vanished. She had spent much of her 25 year journalistic career investigating organized crime, which in this country is just another way of saying the drug cartels. A few days later she "resurfaced" -- in parts. Her body was dumped on a local street and her head was tossed several blocks away.
Within 24 hours prosecutor Pérez called a press conference. He astonished the assembled media by declaring that Yolanda's murder, in his opinion, "had nothing whatever to do with her occupation as a journalist.” He went on to imply that she may have been connected to criminal elements herself, and had paid the price. That, by the way, is an allegation some Mexican prosecutors routinely make: that a certain reporter got "too close" to the story he/she was covering, got "dirty" by taking money from the drug cartels in exchange for not writing about them, and eventually suffered the consequences.
I have never seen any credible evidence proving such in Yolanda's case. The Veracruz newspaper for which she worked went ballistic over his comments, and demanded Pérez' firing. But he's still in office, and of course Yolanda's murder has never been solved. And here's the "rest of the story," as the late Paul Harvey used to say in his magnificent voice. On June 20, just a few weeks before Yolanda's kidnapping and brutal execution, her long-time boss at the paper -- together with his entire family -- was also murdered. A narco execution squad showed up at 6:00 a.m. at the home of Miguel Ángel López, marched right inside and shot him, his wife and their 20 year old son. Those murders, too, remain unsolved. Here is my original news story on Yolanda's case: Veracruz reporter paid with her life: http://mexicogulfreporter-supplement.blogspot.mx/2011/11/veracruz-press-furious-over-prosecutors.html.
Case #2: Many of you by now have heard of the recent "Twitter Terror" case. About a month ago two Veracruz residents, a man and a woman, independently learned of an alleged attack against a local school. Fortunately it turned out to be baseless rumor. But before the facts were known they had passed the story along via social networks. The news spread like wildfire through Veracruz -- after all, the city is used to real terror on a regular basis. Many working parents left their jobs and rushed to the school to pick up their children. Supposedly there was such public panic that two dozen car accidents occurred, although both their number and severity probably have been exaggerated. Everyone was relieved when it became clear that it was all a big mistake. But that was not the end of the matter. Veracruz prosecutors charged the pair with the transmission of terroristic communications and “sabotage.” The latter claim was apparently included because the affected school was forced to shut down, and because some local businesses came to a virtual halt as workers left their jobs, rushing to get their kids. The first offense carries up to 30 years in jail, and the second up to 20 years. By the way, the woman defendant is a reporter. As I said before, Veracruz is not a good place to be if you're a dedicated journalist.
A furor over the case and the absurdity of the charges erupted within and without Mexico. Several attorneys and prominent legal organizations came to the defense, gratis. Amnesty International condemned the prosecution. But for almost a month Reynaldo Escobar Pérez and Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte (see my post on him below) stubbornly hung on, refusing to abandon the malicious -- and silly -- case. Earlier this week they finally threw in the towel, aware that the winds of public opinion had turned against them and that they were going to lose in court. Upon their release, both of the accused persons said they had been abused and roughed up by local police when arrested. Here is my recent editorial on the Twitter Terror case: Mexico Should Proceed With Caution In “Twitter Terror” Cases: http://mexicogulfreporter-supplement.blogspot.mx/2011/11/mexico-should-proceed-with-caution-in.html.
Case #3: Over the past 48 hours, 49 semi-naked cadavers have been casually dumped on Veracruz streets, 35 of them downtown during the 5:00 p.m. rush hour. The execution squad members had utterly no fear of stopping in front of hundreds of motorists and passersby, casually getting out of their luxury SUVs and discarding the corpses (from two cattle trucks which followed closely behind), all of which bore signs of torture followed by strangulation, asphyxiation or death from gunshot wounds. We call that impunity.
I rest my case. Would you want Reynaldo Escobar Pérez to be your local D.A.?
P.S.: Another reporter, a young man, has gone missing this week in Veracruz. His father has not seen him since last weekend and reported his disappearance two days ago. This is unlikely to have a happy outcome.
at 6:16 PM