"Voices Claiming Justice": Javier Valdez Cárdenas, Emblematic Journalist Murdered in Mexico

IAPA calls for full access to justice so that all those responsible, including the masterminds, are brought to justice for this crime.

Miami (May 14, 2024) - Seven years after the murder of the well-known Mexican journalist and writer Javier Arturo Valdez Cárdenas, in Culiacán, Sinaloa, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) continues to demand justice so that the Mexican authorities prosecute all those responsible and the murder does not remain in impunity. The journalist courageously denounced the activities of organized crime, drug trafficking, and political corruption.

As part of its campaign "Voices Claiming Justice," the IAPA recalls the work of the journalist and renews the demand for justice in the case.

Valdez, founder of the weekly magazine Ríodoce, in the state of Sinaloa, was murdered on May 15, 2017, in Culiacán. According to various local media, around noon, unknown armed individuals traveling in a vehicle through the city center of Culiacán intercepted the car in which the journalist was traveling and forced him to get out of the vehicle. They forced him to kneel and shot him at point-blank range 13 times, according to press reports. Valdez, 50, had been receiving anonymous threats for three months.

The journalist, author of eight books and known as the great chronicler of the drug trade in Sinaloa, received several international awards for addressing and documenting in his reports and publications the violence of organized crime in the country. Valdez was also a contributor to the AFP agency and correspondent for the newspaper La Jornada.

The Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE, in Spanish) took over the investigation in 2018. However, the criminal case against the material perpetrators suffered multiple delays, according to the organization Propuesta Civica, representing the family in the legal process.

Two material authors of the murder were convicted: Heriberto Picos Barraza, to 14 years in prison, in February 2020, and Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta, to 32 years, in June 2021. A third accused, Luis Ildefonso Sánchez Romero, was murdered in September 2017. During the trial against Picos Barrueta, it was established that the crime was prompted by Valdez's journalistic work.

According to the Attorney General's Office (FGR, in Spanish), the murder would have been ordered by Dámaso López Serrano, alias "Mini Lic," one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, identified as the mastermind. In January 2020, authorities issued an arrest warrant against him. López Serrano became a cooperating witness for the United States authorities and is on probation in that country, after being sentenced to five years in prison for drug trafficking. His extradition has also been requested so that he can be tried in Mexico for the murder.

The president of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, urged Mexican authorities "to fulfill their responsibility to continue the process and the proceedings to ensure full access to justice, so that all those responsible, including the mastermind, are tried for this crime." Jornet, editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, added that "his family and Mexican journalism deserve to know the truth and have the right to demand the full clarification of the murder."

The IAPA's "Voices Claiming Justice" campaign aims to persevere in the demand for justice and rescue the memory of journalists murdered in Latin America during the last decades.

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.