Yaqui for Borderland Beat
One murderer of Sinaloa Journalist Javier Valdez Cardenas has been sentenced to 32 years
Javier Valdez was killed in retaliation for articles he wrote on organized crime for the news weekly which he co-founded along with Ismael Bojorquez.
A man convicted of the homicide of the journalist in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in 2017 was sentenced on Thursday to 32 years and three months in prison; a long four year battle for justice by his family, friends, colleagues and pro-justice and journalistic entities.
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.
Criminalistics and ballistics experts confirmed that Javier Valdez was murdered by two people.
At the oral trial hearing, the experts testified about the expert opinions they carried out with the evidence and the crime scene. On the fifth day of the trial against Juan Francisco “P”, “El Quillo”, two forensic experts and one expert in field criminology testified.
For about five hours, the experts detailed the mechanics of Javier’s injuries and the crime scene.
“With this type of testimony, it is possible to prove that Javier was hit at close range, that there were two shooters, that he had no opportunity to defend himself and above all, it is the most important thing, to prove the qualifications of the crime, that is, that it was a homicide with premeditation and advantage and in that sense the advantage implies this type of circumstances that are necessary to prove and that were proven today ”, said the head of FEADLE, Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo.
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.
“El Licenciado” and “El Chapo”
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”, and his son, Dámaso “El Mini Lic” López Serrano. (“Lic” is a nickname for one who is El 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, CPJ, 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.”
“El Mini Lic”, son of Dámaso López and god son of “El Chapo” Guzman Loera
“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.
The sentence was issued hours after Mexican journalist Gustavo Sánchez was assassinated in the southern state of Oaxaca. – covered here on BB- Mexican journalists Enrique García (left) and Gustavo Sánchez (right).
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, in the process against Picos Berrueta “the qualifications of premeditation and advantage in the homicide” of Valdez, murdered when he was 50 years old, were accredited.
“He was a material co-author and the one who organized the plan for the execution,” added the Prosecutor’s Office, indicating that the judge also ordered “reparation of moral damage to the indirect victims of this crime.”
A portrait of the Mexican journalist Javier Valdez is shown during a tribute organized by colleagues, family members and civil organizations in Mexico City, on July 15, 2017 Bernardo Montoya AFP
“Irreparable damage but important precedent, Says Griselda Triana, Javier’s widow :
Griselda Triana, Valdez’s widow, highlighted the sentence as an “important precedent”, since “it was clear that the murder was due to her work as a journalist and now everyone will know that there are punishments for those who violate freedom of expression.”
Speaking to AFP, Triana added that for her and her two children “there would never be a sentence that is sufficient for the damage” they suffered.
“The damage is irreparable, it is not possible to quantify how much pain, how much sadness, how much helplessness is experienced when a journalist like Javier is murdered,”
Triana emphasized that she expected a sentence of 50 years, but considered that more than 32 “is enough for this subject to pay” for the crime.
Heriberto Picos Barraza, alias “El Koala”
For the murder of Valdez, Heriberto Picos Barraza, alias “El Koala”, had already been sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison in February 2020, after confessing his participation in the events. The two hit men are family members.
It was shown that “the homicide was due to a series of notes written” by Valdez, said the Prosecutor’s Office when “El Quillo”, one of those who shot the journalist, was found guilty.
Riódoce explains how its co-founder died:
Prior to the murder of Javier Valdez, a war for control of the Sinaloa Cartel had started in Sinaloa between the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera and Dámaso López “El Licenciado”, after “El Chapo” was recaptured in January 2016.
During the dispute, various confrontations were generated, until in February 2017 there were incursions by armed people in Villa Juárez, Navolato, and which was followed by a media war. The sons of “El Chapo” sent a letter to Ciro Gómez Leyva and in those same days Dámaso López Núñez was looking for space in two Sinaloa printouts, Riódce and La Pared, to whom he gave an interview via telephone messages, where he described the attack that “Los Chapitos” attributed it. The interview was made by Javier, because they had looked for him.
“Los Chapitos”, sons of “El Chapo”
The sons of “El Chapo” found out about the interview with Dámaso and pressured Javier so that the work would not be published. But the request was denied. Then they contacted Javier because they wanted to buy the whole edition, but it was not granted either. They then chose to follow -in Culiacán and Mazatlán- the personnel who delivered the copies to the stores and as soon as they left them and upon receipt, they bought them. That was February 19. They did not use violence, but they did use intimidation.
Subsequently, on May 15, 2017, Javier was killed by 12 bullets, at 12:00 hours in the Jorge Almada neighborhood, a few blocks from Riódoce’s office.
Dámaso López Serrano, “El Mini Lic”, identified as the alleged intellectual author, is imprisoned in the United States for drug trafficking, while Luis Ildefonso Sánchez, “El Diablo”, another of those implicated, was assassinated before he could be arrested. “El Diablo”, another of those who killed Javier Valdez, was murdered in Sonora:
Luis Idelfonso Sánchez Romero alias “El Diablo”, another of the hitmen who participated in the murder of journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, on May 15, 2017, is dead.
Sánchez Romero’s remains were found by the Sonora Ministerial Police in the Moctezuma neighborhood of San Luis Río Colorado , Sonora on September 29.
According to information from local media, “El Diablo” was killed along with Ricardo Romero Landeros and their bodies cremated inside a vehicle.
When the bodies were unrecognizable, relatives who came to identify the remains asked the state prosecutor’s office to do DNA tests, the results of which were presented in February of this year and it was established that, indeed, they were these two people.
The following day the two bodies were transferred to Sinaloa by their relatives to bury them.
Interviewed in this regard, the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (Feadle), Ricardo Sánchez, said that they are aware of these events and that the probability that Sánchez Romero was been murdered is “very high ”.
He mentioned, however, that in any case this would not affect the course of the investigations into the crime of Javier Valdez.
- Extradition -
During the trial against Heriberto Picos it was revealed that he was part of a criminal cell led by López Serrano, designated godson of the founder of the Sinaloa cartel Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States.
The organization Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly demanded that “investigations be carried out that allow the connection to the process and the extradition” of the alleged perpetrator.
Valdez was assassinated on May 15, 2017 in the city of Culiacán after leaving the premises of the weekly Riódce, of which he was founder, in his car.
Three hooded men, including “El Quillo” and “El Koala”, later intercepted him and fired 12 shots at him.
Javier Valdez, who was a contributor to the AFP for a decade and also a correspondent for the newspaper La Jornada, is remembered for the allegations made in his texts, almost alone, about the activities of powerful criminal groups such as the Sinaloa cartel, among other issues. .
Some of his last works were related to the struggles within the criminal organization after the recapture of Guzmán, in January 2016, and which worsened with his extradition to the United States the following year
In his honor and that of the Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach, also assassinated in 2017, the Breach-Valdez award is presented in Mexico, promoted by UNESCO, the newspaper La Jornada, the AFP and European embassies.
The latest report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Mexico as the most lethal in the world for the press with eight journalists killed in 2020. The violent deaths of 50 informants are recorded worldwide. The association highlighted the violence and cruelty of which journalists in the country were victims. The director of RSF’s office in Latin America, Emmanuel Colombié, has made several appeals to local and federal authorities to become aware of “the situation of extreme vulnerability in which journalists find themselves and to do what is necessary to guarantee their security in the region and in the country ”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has stressed the lack of support for journalists by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “He promised to take concrete measures to end violence against the press and immunity for the murder of journalists. However, this cycle continues unchanged, “the organization denounced in December, aware that in the vast majority of murder cases,” no accused has been convicted and the intellectual authors remain free. “
Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, with a hundred communicators assassinated since 2000.
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