Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez, a reporter for the local newspaper El Heraldo de Chiapas, was shot dead outside his home in Yajalón, a town in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, at approximately 5 p.m. on September 21, 2018. He was killed by two gunmen riding a motorcycle, according to news reports and El Heraldo’s news director, José Ramón Gallegos.
Mario, 41, was a correspondent for El Heraldo de Chiapas for eight years. He covered general news, including crime and violence. Gallegos told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Mario recently covered crime and security in the Yajalón region. He had also written stories about political developments after the July 1 Mexican general elections, which included elections for Chiapas governor and mayors in the state.
In June 2016, Mario reported receiving death threats on Facebook after he published an article about accusations of alleged corruption made against federal congressman Leonardo Rafael Guirao. In an interview with press freedom group Article 19, the reporter said that on June 15, 2016, the congressman’s driver, known in the region as ‘El Francotirador’ (‘The Sniper’), wrote on Facebook that he was “going to blow [Mario’s] head off.” Mario said that the next day, an unknown individual warned him that a group of seven unidentified men planned to abduct him.
On June 25, 2016, Mario reported the threats against him to Chiapas state attorney general Raciel López Salazar. The reporter’s sister, Nancy Gómez, told El Universal newspaper on September 21 that the state authorities provided him with police protection for three months, but that the threats were never properly investigated. She said that Mario no longer left his home in the evenings after he had received the June 2016 threats.
El Heraldo’s news director Gallegos confirmed that Mario had received threats and had police protection for some time. Gallegos told CPJ that he was unaware of more recent threats against Mario, but said that the Yajalón region has, in recent months, seen an increase in deadly violence. “Drug trafficking gangs have been steadily more active in that area,” he said. “Mario told me that the situation in Yajalón is tense. Several people were found killed there in recent months.”
In a statement released on September 24 2018, the Chiapas state attorney general’s office told media that a male suspect had been arrested. Luis Alberto Sánchez, the state prosecutor for homicides, revealed in a statement released later that same day that the suspect, named only as Juan Pablo ‘N’, observed the reporter’s residence as a lookout to confirm to the killers that Gómez was at home, but was not one of the gunmen.
According to the prosecutor, the detained suspect is a member of a drug trafficking group that operates in Yajalón and the surrounding area, that is led by Juan David Martínez Trujillo and Óscar Leyver Acosta González. Sánchez added that Gómez’s work as a reporter is the principal suspected motive for the killing.
Martínez Trujillo and Acosta González were arrested on September 30, 2018, and October 23, 2018, in Playa del Carmen and Palenque respectively, according to statements released to the media by Sánchez, the Chiapas state homicide prosecutor. However, to date nobody has been convicted of the murder.
Source: Committee to Protect Journalists