MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) — Living in the midst of threats to the practice of journalism in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries for the press, immediately raises alarm bells and anticipates possible attacks, even if the reporter has official protection … or such a time for
That’s what happened to Ruben Cruz, a reporter for a local newspaper, in the tourist city of Cancun in Mexico’s southeast, where high levels of violence have occurred. On Thursday, he was immersed in an incident that ended with gunfire fired around his vehicle and Cruz took refuge in the city jail without knowing if they tried to kill him, leaving him confused. did or what happened.
The Quintana Roo prosecutor’s office, where Cancun is located, said it is already investigating what happened.
According to Jan Albert Hootsen, representative in Mexico of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the only sure thing is that “this is a symptom of the deterioration of security in the state of Quintana Roo” towards journalists and human rights defenders above all.
The situation is not unique to this tourism state. CPJ warned in a report this week that murders of journalists worldwide are set to increase by 50% in 2022 compared to the previous year, mainly due to attacks in Ukraine, Haiti and Mexico, where according to CPJ, 13 informers were murdered.
Attacks without fatality abound, but in contrast, are often not investigated.
According to the 35-year-old journalist, in a telephone conversation with the Associated Press on Friday, he has been working as a reporter for more than a decade, always covering police and security issues. First, he did it in his native Veracruz, where he left more than 6 years ago because of a kidnapping attempt, and currently in the “Por Esto” newspaper in Cancun, where he again faces threats. .
For only two years, he had the protection of a federal mechanism for threatened journalists and had two bodyguards. In addition, CPJ was monitoring his case.
Cruz reported that on Thursday a young man came to the newspaper and denounced the attempted kidnapping as he was leaving. He discussed the matter with his bodyguards, who were waiting for him in the vehicle and for safety, he took an alternate route to his home but fled in a car described by the youth as belonging to the alleged assailants .
In their attempt to see the license plate, they once turned behind said vehicle and called 911 to report the existence of a car with three suspicious persons inside. Then they tried to separate and let it go, but at a new turn they found the car standing upright, as if entering a house, and a man got out.
The reporter said he saw him walk away with the gun and then bent down and heard two or three shots. He got down from the car and tried to run away but was stopped by the bodyguards. “They tell me, no, get back in the car and we’re leaving.”
Since they were close to the jail, they decided to take shelter and call the police from that place. “Because of the adrenaline, I told that there was an exchange of shots,” he said.
However, at midnight he was able to speak to one of his escorts and told him that the impact on the windshield had been caused by his weapon, which he fired from inside the vehicle when he saw the armed man approaching.
Cruz acknowledged that he did not know whether the suspects mistook him for the investigating police, who were driving the same vehicle with the other criminals, or if they were following him. He asked the officials to clarify whether the youth appearing in the newspaper was the real victim or a decoy.
“My wife is very troubled, with many crises… It is very difficult,” he pointed out.
All this fear and confusion is common among journalists dealing with sensitive issues, especially in the provinces, although attacks do happen in the nation’s capital as well. In December, the vehicle of a popular journalist was shot in the heart of Mexico City. Ciro Gomez Leyva was saved by the armor of the car.
Cruz characterized the local newspaper “Por Esto” for “handling strong information”. More recently he wrote about the self-governance of criminals in Quintana Roo prisons, about organized crime disputes for control of Cancun, and against taxi drivers, “a very dangerous guild for criminals to infiltrate.”
This week, the United States warned about violence and security problems on the Mexican Caribbean coast after taxi drivers in Cancun attacked Uber drivers and their customers.
Despite his fears, Cruz said he did not want to run again, like when he left Veracruz, although he had already faced many dangers in Cancun and felt intimidated by shots near his home. So he decided that his wife should have another safety measure, the so-called “panic button”, which when pressed activated the alarm. According to Cruz, on Thursday, the woman pressed him when he informed her what had happened but no one came.
“A year I lived in a shelter that Tantra gave me with my wife and three children, my house was abandoned and that’s what I don’t want today, I don’t plan to leave,” he said.
Hootsen trusted that the officers, who made themselves available to Cruz after the events, should take what happened as another urgent signal “that impunity and crime must be combated and guaranteed that journalists do not go unpunished.” Vengeance can do its job.”