Friday, June 21, 2024

Slain Playa del Carmen crime reporter was victim of threats

A crime beat reporter in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, was shot and killed yesterday morning.

His body was found at about 7:30am in the parking lot of the bar La Gota. His motorcycle was lying nearby.

Romero was the founder and director of the Facebook news page Ocurrió Aquí (It Happened Here), and worked with several local news outlets.

His work as reporter began four years ago when he witnessed a man steal a water truck and attempt to drive away with it, colliding with several cars as he did so. Romero streamed the incident with his phone, and the clip soon went viral.

The video drew the attention of veteran local journalist Rubén Pat, who sought Romero and together they started the weekly journal Playa News in 2016. Pat was slain last June.

Mayor Beristain of Playa del Carmen.
Mayor Beristain of Playa del Carmen.

Romero and Pat’s work put them in the crosshairs of criminal gangs, who threatened them when their faces were broadcast live during an arrest or after they published messages written on narco-banners by rival gangs.

Romero’s recent work covered the police beat and local politics, his friend and colleague Andrés Palafox told the news website Animal Político.

That, he said, led to threats by local municipal authorities, who then arrested him and his collaborators for obstructing police work.

The press freedom organization Article 19 documented at least five acts of aggression against Romero this year, including a March 7 incident in which he was arrested by municipal police while covering a traffic accident.

Two hours later an official told Romero that the message behind his arrest was to “take it easy,” and that it came from Mayor Laura Beristain Navarrete.

The report by Article 19 states that Romero was kidnapped on April 11 by three men who beat him unconscious. In a formal complaint, Romero blamed Beristain of any future aggression.

The reporter continued to receive death threats until his Facebook page was hacked. He was never able to recover it.

Romero was placed in an official protection program that included a panic button and two bodyguards, but they were not with him at the time of his death. One report said he had told them to go home.

Romero was married and the father of a six-year-old boy.

Mayor Beristain has been at the center of a disagreement this week over policing in her municipality. The state government sent in police to assume control, putting the municipal force under single, state command.

The governor said the move was in response to a worsening security situation and accused local officials of being unable to work together. The mayor called it a coup d’etat.

Source: Quintana Roo Hoy (sp), Animal Político (sp)

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