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Javier Valdez Cardenas Javier Valdez, who wrote several books on Mexico's drug traffickers, was murdered in 2017.

Killer of Sinaloa journalist sentenced to 32 years

Javier Valdez was killed in retaliation for articles he wrote on organized crime

A man convicted of the homicide of a journalist in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in 2017 was sentenced on Thursday to 32 years and three months in prison.

A Culiacán court last week found Juan Francisco “El Quillo” Picos Barrueta guilty of the May 15, 2017 murder of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, founder of the weekly newspaper Río Doce. 

Picos Barrueta is the second person to be sentenced for the crime after Heriberto Picos Barraza, also known as “El Koala,” was sent to jail for almost 15 years in February 2020. Picos Barraza, El Quillo’s cousin, was driving a car used to intercept Valdez near the Rio Doce offices in Culiacán.

Picos Barrueta shot the 50-year-old journalist. Another man, Luis Ildefonso “El Diablo” Sánchez Romero, also allegedly shot Valdez but was murdered himself in September 2017.

Federal prosecutors brought 32 witnesses before a judge to support its argument that the killing of Valdez, who also contributed to the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, was premeditated and in retaliation for articles he had written about organized crime.

Valdez’s murder was found to be retaliation for a series of stories he wrote about Sinaloa Cartel leaders Dámaso López Núñez, also known as “El Licenciado” (The Graduate), and his son, Dámaso “El Mini Lic” López Serrano. (“Lic” is a nickname for one who is a licenciado.)

The latter, currently imprisoned in the United States on drug trafficking charges, allegedly ordered the homicide.

Last year, Picos Barrueta rejected an offer of a prison sentence of 20 years and eight months in exchange for accepting responsibility for the murder. He turned the offer down because he had previously been offered a term of 14 years and eight months. Prosecutors increased the length of the sentence on offer because Picos Barrueta also faced weapons charges in Mexicali, Baja California, and Mazatlán, Sinaloa.

Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the sentencing of Picos Barrueta is “an important and welcome step forward to end impunity in a murder that shocked Mexico and the world.”

“We now call on the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression to continue pushing for justice in the case and pursue the extradition of Dámaso López Serrano so that he can be tried in Mexico and be held accountable,” he added.

With reports from Milenio

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