A Mexican journalist was shot to death in his 6-year-old son’s primary school on Tuesday, the latest horrifying incident in the country’s endless, escalating wave of violence.
Gumaro Pérez Aguilando was attending a Nativity procession in the city of Acayucan, in the south-eastern Mexican state of Veracruz. According to local media, three gunmen had followed Aguilando to the school. As celebrations were taking place, the three gunmen shot Aguilando nine times in front of a classroom full of schoolchildren, including one execution-style shot in the head.
Aguilando was the crime reporter and founder of La Voz del Sur, a news site covering the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. According to the Mexican website Processo he had previously been attacked by a lawyer at a public prosecutor’s office. In 2016 Aguilando was one of a group of journalists who demanded justice for their murdered colleague Cándido Ríos Vázquez, according to the website Sin Embargo.
The governor of the state of Veracruz, Miguel Ángel Yunes tweeted his condolences and said that he’d place Aguilando’s family under police protection.
“I lament the horrifying and cowardly attack on Gumaro Pérez Aguilando,” he said. “I’ve told the Secretary of Public Security to put his family under protection [and]…a special group has been sent to investigate the crime.”
Aguilando’s murder is the 12th killing of a journalist this year in Mexico, which makes it the deadliest country in the world for reporters outside of Syria, according to press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“In the land of drug cartels, journalists who cover political corruption or organized crime are almost systemically targeted, threatened, and often gunned down in cold blood,” RSF’s 2017 roundup report read. “Most of these murders remain unpunished, an impunity attributable to Mexico’s widespread corruption, especially at the local level where officials are often directly linked to cartels.”
Earlier in December the United Nations also released a report describing a “profound crisis of safety” for reporters in Mexico.
It’s not just journalists who are suffering. Mexico is currently on track for its bloodiest year ever, surpassing the 2011 record thought to be the apex of the drug war. In some parts of the country the problem has become so bad that morgue workers have walked away from their jobs, saying the stench from bodies of backlogged, decomposing murder victims is too much to bear, according to the Guardian. Cartels have also evolved from vast, drug-trafficking organizations to smaller, more violent and less stable networks, accentuating the violence in the country.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s policies to combat the cartels — and help lessen the violence in Mexico — are focusing on blunt security measures which are likely to make things worse. The State Department, well-placed to help with anti-corruption and press freedom measures, has been gutted. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also fiercely opposed to any sort of marijuana decriminalization, which is crucial in helping to deprive cartels of their profits. The Mexican government is also continuing to favor a military-first approach, despite its awful track record since 2006. The Mexican Congress recently passed a law strengthening the military’s role as a law enforcement tool to fight the drug cartels, which critics say is unconstitutional and will allow for the armed forces to operate with impunity.
“Instead of the historical left-wing insurgencies, you’re now dealing with a criminal cancer that’s eroding everything,” Nathan Jones, an expert on drug violence in Mexico, told ThinkProgress. “Any military man knows you have to be able to provide [basic stability] for people to eliminate their underlying grievances.”