The tortured body of a Mexican police reporter was found on the side of a road in Sonora State on Friday, a day after he was kidnapped by gunmen while waiting at a car wash, authorities said.
Marco Antonio Avila Garcia’s body was found inside a black plastic bag near the city of Empalme, about 110km south of Ciudad Obregon, where he was abducted, Sonora state prosecutors’ spokesman Jose Larrinaga said.
Larrinaga said police also found a message signed by a cartel, but he would not reveal the message’s content.
The 39-year-old reporter often wrote about organized crime for the sister newspapers Diario Sonora de la Tarde and El Regional de Ciudad Obregon, Larrinaga said.
Avila was snatched and forced into a pickup truck on Thursday by three masked gunmen as he waited for a company car to be washed in Ciudad Obregon. Eduardo Flores, director of the newspapers, said Avila wrote about drug trafficking, but never mentioned cartels by name nor did investigative pieces.
“He wrote about drug trafficking, but nothing involved” about it, Flores said. “He wasn’t allowed to cover anything that would be considered aggressive by criminal groups.”
Flores said Avila was among the most experienced police reporters on his staff. The journalist never mentioned receiving threats or being afraid of covering the police beat. No threats had been received by the newspapers, he added.
The reporter was married and had three small children. He worked at night and during the day was going to university. He recently graduated with a degree in chemistry.
Mexico has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists in recent years, with media workers disproportionately targeted. Last week, gunmen opened fire on the offices of the El Manana newspaper in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. The week before, police found the mutilated bodies of three photojournalists inside plastic bags dumped in a canal in Veracruz State.
Prosecutions in journalist killings are rarely carried out, which is generally the case with most homicides and other serious crimes in Mexico.
The Mexican National Commission on Human Rights says 81 journalists were killed between 2000 and this year. In addition, it said 14 have disappeared. Other press freedom groups differ with that number.
The commission said on Friday it had opened an investigation into the death of Rene Orta Salgado, a journalist who had quit working for El Sol de Cuernavaca newspaper in the resort city of Cuernavaca in January. Police found Orta’s body inside his car’s trunk last Sunday; he had apparently been strangled.