You may not have known him, but many thousands have relied on his reports for decades, covering drug cartels and organized crime. Award-winning reporter Javier Valdez was gunned down in the middle of the day in Sinaloa, Mexico, becoming at least the sixth journalist killed in that country since March.
Some fear that the attacks on journalists could lead to a de facto information blackout.
Aaron Nelsen, a McAllen-based reporter for the San Antonio Express-News says journalists in Mexico believe the current wave of violence is the worst they’ve ever seen in that country.
“I think one of the things they’re seeing is a shift in the violence,” Nelsen says. “Before you had a cartel structure that was from the top down, very uniform and organized. And now, with the fracturing of the cartel, you have lots of cells. And that makes for a lot more instability, and they’re a lot less predictable as well.”
Nelsen says what’s new is that citizens are being targeted more than they have been in the past.
“In Tamaulipas, you don’t have local police forces, but state police and federal police and marines that patrol these cities,” Nelsen says. “They don’t necessarily address a lot of other crimes that go on, so there’s [a] sense of lawlessness that goes on.”
Battles among rival drug cartel members have also increased in the past month, since the killing of Comandante Toro, the ‘plaza boss’ of Reynosa.
“Ever since then, you’ve had battles breaking out all over the city, and in that, you have citizens caught in the crossfire, and that wasn’t necessarily the case before,” Nelsen says.
Attacks on journalists seem less random, but they take a toll on the communities where they happen.
“All of these journalists are local journalists,” Nelsen says. “This is their home town, so they’re living it along with everybody else. And I think there’s real sense of exhaustion in Reynosa and parts of Tamaulipas, as this has been dragging on for years now.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.