“The killing is the result of a country in chaos”: a profile of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez

By Magali Tercero

The following text is a short profile written by Mexican journalist and editor Magali Tercero of Regina Martínez, a reporter for news weekly Proceso who was killed on April 28, 2012 in the violent state of Veracruz. Last weekend, hundreds of journalists in more than 20 Mexican cities took to the streets to commemorate her death and demand protection for the press.

This text was originally published in the book “You and I Met on the Terrible Night,” of the blog Nuestra Aparente Rendición, which gathers profiles on each of the 127 journalists who have been killed or gone missing in the last 12 years in Mexico. The project continues to be updated on Nuestra Aparente Rendición’s website.

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One more body in the most dangerous state for journalists

On April 28, 2012, the news spread by word of mouth through a shocked community.  Regina Martínez Pérez, correspondent for Proceso magazine, was found dead in her house in Xalapa, Veracruz. During the International University Book Fair, I was struck by the deep, mourning silence at the end of some presentations. Martínez’s last story, published the day before she died, reported on the arrest of nine corrupt police officers in the PAN-controlled municipality of Papaloapan. On the 30th, at the end of the presentation of my latest book, I was approached by someone who preferred not to give his name.  Minutes earlier, there had been a moment of silence for Regina Martínez. The man who approached me said that shortly before her death unknown men had gone into her house to steal her computer. But she – with 30 years of impeccable work – decided to continue her routine.

VERACRUZ: THE MOST DANGEROUS STATE. Working out of what the Foundation for the Freedom of Expression called the most dangerous state for Mexican journalism, Martínez had denounced the killing of Rogelio Martínez Cruz, former leader of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática). Specializing in narcotrafficking this reporter, discrete according to her neighbors, always called out corrupt officials. Jorge Carrasco, the journalist named by Proceso to a Special Investigative Committee, confirmed that she worked in hostile conditions. Some time later, someone “from on high” had ordered that she be prevented from entering city hall. “The insolence from the guards was humiliating for her,” said my informant that night.

FEMICIDE? “The killing is the result of a country in chaos,” said Proceso. Editor Julio Scherer traveled to Xalapa on the day of the killing.  When Governor Javier Duarte promised to investigate, he replied only: “We don’t believe you.” It was known that Martínez’s body showed signs of beatings and strangulation. The authorities spoke of a “crime of passion.” One day before I returned to Mexico City, a women’s rights activist told me that Martínez was small, tiny. “Such cruelty wasn’t necessary,” she said in a low voice. Reporters, academics, social leaders and other citizens protested on Sunday, April 29 in Plaza Lerdo. With them was the academic Ester Hernández Palacios, mother of a young woman killed in 2010: Irene Méndez. Her book, “Diary of a Mutilated Mother,” won the Carlos Montemayor Prize.

BURIAL. Another person – no one let me publish their name – told me that Martínez’s two brothers traveled from the mountains to attend her funeral.  There, her colleagues tore up the wreaths sent by the governor.  “Now everyone loves her. Before they hated her. It was envy,” one colleague said. During the ceremony, one woman took the microphone and said, “Regina feared nothing. She was a giant in national (Mexican) journalism.”

Rumors went around that her body had been mutilated.  But this was denied to the family and even though they demanded it, they were refused their constitutional right to see the corpse. She was identified by the face, as the rest of her body was wrapped up. “According to law, the family must see her… uncovered,” said someone else I interviewed. One week later, on May 7, Mayela García Ramírez, president of the Collective for Investigation and Education Between Women, said that the killing should be investigated as femicide. “After her funeral, I found out who killed her: […] the editors and owners of newspapers who confused advertising agreements with submissiveness to power […] the reporters who put out their hands for bribes,” wrote Guillermo Manzano.

EPILOGUE. The youngest daughter of Ester Hernández Palacios, younger sister of the girl who was killed, heard over the radio that Regina Martínez was dead. The girl suffers from down syndrome and had a panic attack. Between shouting and weeping, she told her mother “They’re going to kill you, mama!  Don’t go out!” On May 3, as I was getting on a bus to Mexico City, she sent me a text. The bodies of the photographers Guillermo Luna, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodríguez had been found in Boca del Río. There are still no suspects. Irene Méndez is still waiting for justice.

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*Magali Tercero is a journalist of society and art, and author of the book “When the Barbarians Came… Daily Life and Narcotrafficking.”

Other stories on Martínez and her work:

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.