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Journalist Javier Valdez, murdered in 2017. Journalist Javier Valdez, murdered in 2017.

Second homicide charge laid in case of Sinaloa journalist

Attorney general will seek a 50-year prison term

One of the main suspects in the murder of Sinaloa journalist Javier Valdez has been charged with homicide, the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) said.

Heriberto Picos Barraza, also known as “El Koala,” was arrested in April in connection with Valdez’s murder in May last year and for ties with a drug trafficking organization that operates in Sinaloa and Baja California.

The attorney general is seeking a 50-year prison term, the maximum under the Sinaloa criminal code.

Two other men have been implicated in Valdez’s murder. One has already been charged.

Valdez, 50, was a co-founder of the Sinaloa newspaper Río Doce, where he chronicled drug-trafficking. He was ambushed outside his office in Culiacán and shot 12 times.

Shortly before his death he interviewed Dámaso “El Licenciado” López, a senior official in the Sinaloa Cartel and a member of one of two factions vying for control of the drug gang. The other faction was — and possibly still is — headed by “Los Chapitos,” sons of former cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

According to Valdez’s colleagues at Río Doce, Guzmán’s sons had pressured the journalist not to publish his interview with López. That was in February 2017. He was killed three months later, after he published the story.

Valdez won the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2011.

In his acceptance speech he described the challenge of working in Mexico.

“To work in journalism is to walk an invisible line drawn by the bad guys — who are in drug trafficking and in the government — in a field strewn with explosives.”

Source: El Sol de Mexico (sp)

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