It is cold on Wednesday inside the offices of El Sol de Orizaba, where murdered journalist Anabel Flores Salazar had worked as a freelancer.
One of the newspaper’s advertising representatives, who also writes stories about “weddings, baptisms and cultural events,” is reading the front page of another newspaper, El Buen Tono, which carries the headline: “Reporter found dead.”
“I never spoke with her,” she says about her dead colleague, explaining that Anabel always worked from home.
A group of armed men broke into her home in Veracruz early Monday and kidnapped her
“Orizaba is a peaceful city,” says another employee.
Authorities found Flores’ body dumped on the side of a highway in Puebla on Tuesday. She was bound and handcuffed with a plastic bag wrapped around her head.
Family members said a group of armed men had broken into her home in Veracruz early Monday morning and kidnapped her.
Besides El Sol, Flores had also freelanced as a crime reporter for other publications, including El Buen Tono.
“In September 2014, Anabel Flores was fired from her job at El Buen Tono,” reads the article in that newspaper underneath her photograph. “It was discovered that her lifestyle did not go with the salary she had earned. She drove a Ford Patriot truck, a vehicle she owned but impossible to purchase with her salary.”
The editor-in-chief at El Sol refutes that version.
“No that’s not true,” says José Luis Ramos, who spoke to Flores for the last time on Sunday, just hours before she was kidnapped. “I knew her and she didn’t live the high life.”
Do you think that her murder had something to do with her job?
“No,” says Ramos, smoking a cigarette. “I think her stories never bothered anyone’s interests.”
Did she receive any threats?
“No, no, no. In fact, we don’t have any security,” he insists, adding that he did not think Orizaba was a dangerous place for journalists.
“What we have here are home invasions and assaults, and maybe the odd confrontation. The mayor has said that this is one of the safest cities in Mexico. In fact, three or four years ago, Orizaba was named the ‘Magic Town.’”
“No that’s not true. I knew her and she didn’t live the high life”
The two-story house where Flores lived is located in a modest neighborhood. Armed officers stand guard outside under the rain. From the inside, the cries of a baby can be heard – Flores had given birth just two weeks before.
“I am sorry, we would rather not say anything right now,” says a youth before shutting the door.
Various security cameras point at the entrance of the home. One of the officers dressed in camouflage uniform says he does not know whether they have been recently installed or were there before the kidnapping.
“Anabel is the 17th journalist murdered in Veracruz,” says one reporter, who asked for anonymity and is thinking about leaving the profession. “It’s scary, and it gets worse each day.”
The notorious Zetas drug cartel remains active in Veracruz. It is one of the most violent criminal organizations in Mexico and when people refer to it they usually speak in code. Some call the gang “the bad guys” or “the last letter of the alphabet.”
“After the funeral, the story will fade away”
The journalist who doesn’t want to be identified uses his finger to draw a ‘Z’ on the table, Zorro-style.
He covers the same crimes stories that Flores covered. Describing his late colleague as “reserved but witty,” the journalist believes that the newspapers in Orizaba would sooner forget about the case.
“This has to disappear from the agenda because the situation is out of control. After the funeral, it will all go away,” he says.
At midday, the body arrives at the mortuary, which is heavily guarded by armed police officers.
A young man, Geiser Manuel Caso, emerges to speak to reporters. He is the acting secretary for the State Commission for Attention and Protection of Journalists in Veracruz.
“For our part, we have no additional information on the matter,” Caso says.
Veracruz attorney general Luis Ángel Bravo has said one lead that investigators are looking into is a meeting that took place in 2014 between a local criminal known as El Pantera and Flores. El Pantera was arrested at the time.
More than 120 journalists have been murdered in the last 25 years in Mexico
When asked if he believes that the attorney general’s theory links Flores to crime, Caso says Bravo’s statements were “unfortunate” and “should never be repeated.”
According to the International Federation of Journalists, more than 120 journalists have been murdered in Mexico in the last 25 years, making the country the third-most-dangerous place for working reporters.
Of the seven journalists reported murdered last year, three killings took place in Veracruz, reports the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
Caso, whose job is to protect journalists, admits that enforcing the law in Veracruz has been “a great challenge.”
English version by Martin Delfín.