Second journalist dies in Oaxaca, Mexico in the span of a week; he was hit by police patrol car

Salvador Olmos García, a 31-year-old community radio host, is dead after being run over by a police car in Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca on June 26.

Just days before, reporter Elidio Ramos Zárate was killed in Juchitán in the same state on June 19. That day, he had been covering teachers’ protests in Oaxaca that turned violent as police, protestors and others clashed.

There are conflicting accounts of Olmos García’s death.

Prosecutors said that Olmos García was detained by police after painting graffiti on a monument in town, as reported by AFP. While being transferred to the prosecution, authorities said Olmos García attempted to run away and was run over by police who were trying to re-apprehend him. He later died at a hospital.

However, freedom of expression organization Article 19 quoted someone at the radio station where Olmos García collaborated as saying that he had been “intercepted by municipal police” while on his way to the radio station early Sunday morning.

The person cited witnesses saying that Olmos García was taken away, the officers took his belongings.

“I imagine that they beat him and he starting running away. They got into the patrol car, followed him and ran him over. The version from neighbors is that they ran him over and then kicked him,” the person said.

A member of the radio station told Article 19 that late on the night of June 25, they were aware of “two trucks circling around the Normal (School) where the radio station is. They came as civilians, but we felt that they were the Federal Police. People gathered, they formed barricades. Then the matter died down. Our colleague never came.”

Olmos García was a radio host at Tu Un Ñuu Savi for the program “Pitaya negra” that transmitted from the Huajuapan Experimental Normal School and “addressed several social and cultural issues, including the struggle of peoples against mining and environmental protection,” according to Article 19. The station had been covering the teachers protests and subsequent violence in the state, the organization added.

According to the website for the radio station, it belongs to section 22 of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación. The CNTE has been protesting in Oaxaca against educational reforms for weeks. On June 19 in Noxchixtlán, during authorities’ attempts to clear roadblocks set up by protestors, at least eight people died.

Proceso reported that the Defender of Human Rights of the People of Oaxaca (DDHPO for its acronym in Spanish) urged local authorities to investigate the case.

Quadratín reported that there have been both peaceful and violent protests of Olmos García’s death, including an attempt to destroy the monument in the city on which police said Olmos García was painting graffiti.

The mayor of Huajuapan de León said he took policemen off the streets due to threats, as reported by Milenio.

A press release from the city of Huajuapan de León announcing the death said a police officer had been detained and placed before prosecutors. It also called for order in the city.

According to Article 19, between June 17 and 21, there were 16 attacks against journalists in Oaxaca and Mexico City and 11 of these were carried out by “elements of public security.” The organization called for a thorough investigation and for authorities to prioritize Olmos García’s journalistic work as a line of investigation.

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.