Narco violence gets most of the headlines in Mexico (and headlines about Mexico in the foreign press), but over the years state violence has been, and continues to be just as deadly—if not more so. As is frequently pointed out, the high degree of criminal infiltration into the institutions of the Mexican state sometimes makes it difficult to tell the difference. Two recent political/criminal murders in the state of Veracruz—the strangulation and beating of Regina Martínez, a courageous investigative reporter who was killed on April 28, and the murder and apparent torture of José Luis Blanco, an outspoken sociology professor whose body was found bound and gagged just a month later on May 27—drive home this difficulty. The murders of these two professionals who had been outspokenly critical of the political regime in Veracruz highlight the difficulty of distinguishing the criminal from the political in many parts of Mexico, and the dangers of seeking the truth about the connections among the drug trade, organized violence, and political corruption throughout the country.
Veracruz is a one-party state, having been governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for some eight decades. While the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has gained some influence at the municipal level, the state itself remains under firm (and old-time corporate) PRI control. PRI functionaries have seldom been reluctant to use any means necessary—including selective violence against adversaries and strategic arrangements with dubious partners and allies—to retain the privileges and perquisites of power.
I reproduce below translated portions of two commentaries on the recent murders: first an open letter on the murder of Regina Martínez, sent by Alberto Olvera to members of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) requesting support for a statement demanding free expression in Veracruz; second, a statement that was published in Proceso on José Luis Blanco, written by his friend and colleague, José Julián González Osorno.
On Regina Martínez by Alberto Olvera:
On April 28, Regina Martínez, the only independent, critical journalist in my state of Veracruz was murdered in the city of Jalapa. She worked for a national magazine called Proceso, and for at least the past ten years had been the target of political, labor and personal pressures to impede her from doing her critical, accusatory work. Her murder, by strangulation and beatings, has an inevitable political implication. Over the past ten years, 15 journalists have been murdered in Veracruz, eight of them in the last year and a half. A non-governmental organization called Article XIX documented 565 attacks against journalists, media and press workers from 2009 through 2011 in Mexico. Of those, 303 were attributed to public functionaries, and only 77 to organized crime.
I have been a public intellectual in my state for the past three decades. The media interview me frequently and cover academic events in which I participate. I criticize federal, state and local governments with well-founded arguments. Following Regina’s murder I circulated a public protest letter, which was signed by over 300 people and I gave declarations to Proceso. On May 10, as a governmental response, almost all the political columnists of the principal print and electronic media of the state of Veracruz published personal attacks against me and pressured local university authorities to distance themselves from my declarations, something they did by way of another journalistic column. The coordination of this attack shows its common origins: the office of Social Communication of the Government of Veracruz.
On José Luis Blanco by José Julián González:
We’re fucked over and fed up. We are fucked over by the brutal murder—still not resolved—of our friend and companion Regina Martínez, Proceso’s Veracruz correspondent, and now we are fucked over by the frightening homicide of our dear companion and friend José Luis Blanco Rosas, professor at Veracruz University this past May 27 in the city of Jalapa, Veracruz. What frightful horror is passing through Jalapa? What horror is eating the soul of Veracruz? What infinite cruelty sows death in the heart of our country? I write because we cannot keep quiet. Because, José Luis, you would never have remained silent if a friend of ours had been murdered. Because we know, dear José Luis, that a fallen friend is a diminishment of oneself, it makes us smaller and smaller, poorer and poorer.
For more from Fred Rosen's blog, "Mexico, Bewildered and Contested," visit nacla.org/blog/mexico-bewildered-contested.