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Authorities arrest suspect in killing of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez almost one year after murder

Federal Police arrested one of the suspects in the killing of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas on April 23 in Tijuana, Baja California, according to Ríodoce. National Security Commissioner (CNS) Renato Sales Heredia formally announced the arrest at a press conference in Mexico City the following day.

Journalist Javier Valdez was killed in Sinaloa, Mexico on May 15, 2017.

Sales Heredia told the media that the person arrested is a 26-year-old man, whom they called Heriberto "N," known as the "Koala," who is linked to organized crime and drug trafficking, Ríodoce reported. Use of force was necessary in the joint operation to capture “Koala,” Sales Heredia said.

News of the arrest broke on April 23 when Secretary of the Interior, Alfonso Navarrete, congratulated the Federal Police, the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) and the CNS on the successful operation via Twitter.

The Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (Feadle), Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, said in an interview with the investigative journalism magazine Ríodoce, which Valdez co-founded, that there is another arrest warrant in progress related to the journalist’s murder. According to the head of the Feadle, it has been established that three people were traveling in the gray Versa that was used to murder the journalist, and that Heriberto "N" was the one who drove it.

On Twitter, the Federal Police referred to Heriberto “N” as “one of the probable material authors of the murder of journalist Javier Valdez. Work continues to detain others responsible.”

Sánchez Pérez del Pozo also told Ríodoce that the motive for the assassination of Valdez Cárdenas is linked to information that the journalist published weeks prior to his murder.

According to the PGR, Koala worked for the Sinaloa Cartel cell that was headed by Dámaso López Nuñez, alias "El Licenciado," who was arrested a year ago in Mexico City, El Universal published.

Months before Valdez's death, a wave of violence swept through Sinaloa due to factions of the Sinaloa Cartel who were fighting for power. The sons of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo,” head of the aforementioned cartel who was recaptured in January 2016, and the sons of Dámaso López Núñez were at war, according to Ríodoce.

In this context, Ríodoce recalled, Valdez interviewed Dámaso López Nuñez via telephone messages about the situation and published the interview in the magazine in February 2017. The children of Chapo unsuccessfully pressured Valdez not to publish the interview, according to Ríodoce.

On May 15, 2017, at 12:00 p.m., Valdez was killed near his office by a group of hooded individuals who took him out of his car and shot him 12 times at point-blank range in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

The arrest of a suspect in the murder of Javier Valdez Cárdenas is a welcome step, but we urge the Mexican authorities to identify all those responsible for the killing, including the mastermind,” said CPJ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen, according to a press release. “Too often, investigations into the murders of Mexican journalists stall after low-level suspects have been arrested, which allows impunity to thrive.”

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere to practice journalism, according to the CPJ's Global Impunity Index, in which Mexico ranks sixth.


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