A longtime social activist turned reporter from Veracruz has become the 10th journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year.
Cándido Ríos Vásquez, 55, was originally a farmer who was quick to take up a cause or denounce injustice, organizing protests along with other farmers and neighbors in his home town of Hueyapan de Ocampo.
For a while he published a short-lived weekly publication called La Voz de Hueyapan (The Voice of Hueyapan), in which he published his own stories and photographs.
Eager to find a broader audience, he approached the Diario de Acayucan daily newspaper for employment. He was hired as a reporter and newspaper vendor, jobs he had held for the past 10 years.
But it was during that time that Ríos made enemies, most notably the former mayor of Hueyapan, Gaspar Gómez Jiménez.
Ríos wrote in 2010 that Gómez was the chief suspect in the disappearance of a municipal clerk, a suspicion confirmed by the state Attorney General’s office.
The case against Gómez never went anywhere because he was protected from prosecution by the fuero, or political immunity, which the state Congress had the power to rescind but never did.
The deputy editorial director of the Diario de Acayucan told the newspaper El Universal that ex-mayor Gómez repeatedly sent men to apprehend Ríos, who then beat him. “He received death threats all the time. He even left journalism for a while . . . but he came back.”
The aggression harmed Ríos’ health permanently, continued Cecilio Pérez Cortés, who said the last time the reporter was arrested and jailed police officers injured one of his legs, leaving him with a permanent limp.
But Ríos carried on. Ten days ago he uploaded a video to Facebook in which he denounced a corruption network in Hueyapan, accusing several officials of illegally using government money and cheating in past elections, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
After spending some time at an internet café turning in a story yesterday, Ríos was returning home when he stopped to greet a friend in the town of Juan Díaz Covarrubias. It was there that a group of individuals opened fire on Ríos, who was seriously wounded.
His friend and one other person were killed by the unknown attackers.
The newspaper Imagen del Golfo reported that Ríos was transported to a local hospital, where he died hours later.
The attack on Ríos occurred despite his registration in journalist protection program created by the federal Interior Secretariat, said the head of a state media protection group.