Politicians and drug traffickers suspected in murder of Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach

During the recent oral hearing of the accused mastermind of the murder of Miroslava Breach Velducea, audio was presented allegedly linking two members of the National Action Party (PAN, for is acronym in Spanish) with the March 23, 2017 murder of the correspondent from La Jornada.

According to Proceso, the recording of a 2016 conversation between Breach and Alfredo Piñera, spokesperson for the PAN, allegedly confirmed what the murdered journalist reported on in numerous articles: the collusion between drug traffickers and politicians in the state of Chihuahua, who are also allegedly implicated in Breach’s murder.

In the audio, whose transcription was published by several newspapers such as Proceso and La Jornada, Piñera asks Breach to tell him who gave her the information she published about the candidate that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) would present for the mayor's office in Chínipas, Chihuahua.

In her article “Asserting organized crime candidates for elected office in Chihuahua,” published on March 4, 2016, Breach reported that several candidates for mayor in that region were part of criminal groups. Concerning the candidate who was going to run for the PRI in Chínipas, Breach reported that it was Juan Miguel Salazar, nephew of Adán Salazar, leader of the criminal group Los Salazares, associated with the Sinaloa Cartel, La Jornada published.

According to Proceso, the publication of this article forced the PRI to change its candidate in the regions of Chínipas and in Bachíniva, also in Chihuahua.

Threats and pressure on the journalist by PAN officials would have started after that.

According to La Silla Rota, Piñera wanted to know who leaked to Breach the information about the PRI candidate because Los Salazares were holding the PANistas responsible for it.

In that conversation, Breach told Piñera that she would not disclose her sources, and that he could tell those who were pressuring her that she drew those conclusions because she was a native of Chínipas and because of her reporting and investigations in the area.

"Miroslava Breach knows Chínipas and every stone there, and she knows who the character is," Breach said in the conversation. "So you never met with the people or the municipal president?" Piñera asked Miroslava, asking her to confirm that she never spoke with Hugo Amed Schultz, the PAN mayor of Chínipas at the time, about the identify of the PRI candidate.

To which Breach replied: "So tell them. They have warned my uncles (from Chínipas) that they are going to fuck (kill) them, so okay, but if they are going to fuck someone it should be the reporter. I have cousins, let them know that it was me, that no one else told me, it's that simple. "

Breach pointed out in previous articles published in the newspaper El Norte de Juárez, where she also collaborated, that Schultz was a protector of the Los Salazares group, according to Proceso.

La Silla Rota reported that Schultz delivered the recording of this conversation between Piñera and Breach to Los Salazares, in order to clarify lines of responsibility.

The audio was found on the computer of another of the suspects in Breach's murder, Jasiel Vega Villa, who allegedly hid and transported Breach’s murderers for several days, according to La Jornada.

"We know that there is a link between political power and crime, which was exposed by Miroslava, and that was what led to her murder. That is why we hope that those who are part of this group will answer for this crime,” Breach’s five brothers told Proceso.

The audio was presented by prosecutors in the oral hearings for Juan Carlos Moreno Ochoa, alias El Larry, who was captured on Dec. 25 and has been accused of intentional homicide for the March 23, 2017 murder of Breach. He could face a sentence of up to 70 years, according to La Jornada.

Prosecutors established that Moreno Ochoa oversaw Breach’s execution, which was carried out by Ramón Andrés Zavala Corral, according to La Jornada. Zavala was killed, presumably by the criminal group Los Salazares, in Sonora, close to Chínipas, on Dec. 19, Proceso reported.

Journalist Marcela Turati reported in Proceso that various journalistic notes published on the day of the capture of the alleged intellectual author of Breach’s murder said that Moreno Ochoa worked for Los Salazares and controlled the municipalities bordering Sonora and Chihuahua.

What these media also reported, Turati said, is that Moreno Ochoa would have killed Breach as a birthday present for Adán Salazar Zamorano, whose birthday is supposedly on March 23. ‘Don Adán,’ as he is known, has been imprisoned since 2011. He is the patriarch of Los Salazares clan and was operator of patriarch of the Los Salazares clan who worked with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, then-leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. For Turati, this would give credit to the theory of the lone assassin who acted on his own behalf, which would be beneficial to the PANistas.

According to Proceso, the current governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral (PAN), said on Dec. 25 that Moreno Ochoa was the mastermind behind Breach’s murder, the “orchestrator” of the crime.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.