A crime against freedom: Miroslava Breach, woman and journalist

News and Commentary

Miroslava Breach Velducea

A translation of an article by Olga Alicia Aragón that was published in La Jornada on March 25, 2017

Miroslava Breach Velducea was murdered in cold blood; eight shots fired at her by a professional murderer, in a calculated act of extreme violence. His action deeply wounded the best journalism of Chihuahua and showed the seriousness of the breakdown of a state that bleeds from the impunity with which the corrupt and the criminal have acted for years.

It is not the death of one journalist. It is the death of our society, which has gradually gotten used to the killing of its best people, silencing them in many different ways. As the writer Carlos Lazcano put it, expressing his heartfelt condolences “for you, for me, for the Miroslava family, for all who love justice and truth, for all that we want in this country.”

There were many bullets, clearly intended to send a written message in blood and fire.

Eight shots, too, to mow down a woman who wielded critical journalism with great neatness, armed only with her intelligence, her professional ethics, and the power of words.

Miroslava Breach, correspondent for La Jornada and a contributor to the newspaper El Norte de Juarez, was gunned down at 7:06 AM on Thursday, March 23, in her van when she left her home to go to school with her son Carlitos, 14, and get an early start on her journalistic work, as always.

Mourning and protest in Zacatecas. Photo: Alfredo Valadez, La Jornada

Journalist, mother, and wife. Woman, journalist and mother. Three factors whose order never altered the quality of her work, or the warmth of her relationship with her loved ones.

The memory remains of an image that completely describes her: 1996. Miroslava in the newsroom of El Diario de Chihuahua, writing with passion and professionalism the notes, the stories, the columns, and at the same time cooing to her then little daughter Andrea, who was asleep in her lap as she concluded another grueling day.

Years later, we would see Miroslava up at almost dawn, attending to her son Carlitos and leaving for his school, and, in the next minute, becoming the talented, shrewd and experienced professional who we met.

Miroslava could write a story and send it immediately to the media for release, while preparing food or reviewing the homework of her children.

Chihuahua has lost a formidable journalist who was part of that generation formed with ethical principles and with the mystical concept of a journalism of profound social commitment.

She was born in Chínipas, a town located in the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara. She was still a child when she lost her father, and only the love of her mother and fraternal solidarity between her sisters and her brother, together with the iron will that characterized them, made it possible for Velducea Breach to achieve her professional studies.

Miroslava studied political science at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, the state where she began her career as a journalist. When she returned to Chihuahua in 1995, she made an immediate impact on the state’s journalism, first at El Heraldo de Chihuahua, later at El Diario y El Norte , and from 1997 to her death as a correspondent for La Jornada.

Her studies in political science undoubtedly enriched her analytical capacity, especially as a columnist, where she developed a very personal style of elegant simplicity and subtle pungency, but always with absolute adherence to the highest values of journalism, so that her articles were above question even when she wrote about controversial and contentious issues.

Alejandro Gutiérrez, a Spanish correspondent for the weekly Proceso, says his colleague and friend Miroslava Breach had an innate capacity for professionalism; “She could relate sources and achieve remarkable information, construct connecting threads to obtain essential data, but at the same time, be affable with those sources, even establish an emotional bond with some of them, but never abandoning her role as a journalist. She knew how to keep those borders, and her professionalism gained the respect of her sources and colleagues, because her articles contributed valuable information or the nuances of a conflict.”

Despite handling large amounts of data, she made a point of using only that which had been proven and documented, adds Gutierrez.

Miroslava, together with other national media correspondents, was perhaps the journalist who constantly and systematically conducted more research on national and Canadian mining companies that, in exchange for the few bucks used to extract land from the peasants, especially in the Sierra Madre, poisoned the soil, subsoil and groundwater with cyanide as part of leaching techniques to extract gold, silver and other metals from open pit mines.

It was also with remarkable constancy and depth that she publicized the struggle of indigenous landholders against illegal logging, often linked to organized crime, such as in in Coloradas de la Virgen, where, just this past January 17, Tarahumara leader Isidro Baldenegro López was assassinated. Baldenegro received an award from the Goldman Foundation in 2005 for his work in defense of indigenous land and forests.

The spread of femicides from Ciudad Juarez to the entire state of Chihuahua was a constant theme in the reportage of “Miros”, who was outraged by the murder of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz on December 16, 2010 at the entrance of the Government Palace (state legislature) of Chihuahua, as part of an unceasing struggle in with the state government. Escobedo had demanded the arrest of Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, murderer of her 16-year-old daughter, Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo.

Miroslava tirelessly wrote lacerating articles on issues such as extra-judicial executions, kidnappings, and the disappearances of dozens of women and men which, in many cases, involved police officers or the military.

In the more than 20 years of journalism in Chihuahua, Miroslava Breach documented the years of horror suffered by the state at the hands of organized crime and by a war without strategy or any intelligence, as she wrote, conceived by Felipe Calderon as only a ploy to try to legitimize his Presidency of the Republic, the result of a disputed election.

In her final article, Miroslava reported as a correspondent on the confrontation between two groups of drug traffickers and police elements in a gunfight that began at three in the afternoon and ended almost at midnight on Sunday, March 19 on roads and villages near Cuauhtemoc, a hundred kilometers northwest of the state capital, in which eight civilians were killed.

The Attorney General’s Office of Chihuahua, Miroslava informed us, confirmed the death of Cesar Raul Gamboa Sosa, alias El Cabo, leader of the criminal group La Linea, which clashed with the group of Carlos Arturo Quintana, El 80, who allegedly controls the zone which includes the municipalities of Bachíniva, Namiquipa and Buenaventura.

There is no topic of interest to Chihuahuans, or of concern to society, which had not been covered during the more than 20 years she worked as a journalist in Chihuahua, with the recognition of all those who appreciated her professionalism, credibility and its moral authority.

We have lost a great journalist, many have lost a dear and irreplaceable friend. Andrea and Carlitos lost their mother. The pain is immense in all of her family, and it is better that we all understand that this death has a tremendous impact on all of society. The grief of a thousand cries out for justice.

The murder of this journalist occurs in an extremely worrying context, with an citizenry angry over the impunity that took place under PRI Governor Cesar Duarte, said to be the most corrupt governor Chihuahua has ever had. This heinous crime was committed under the PAN government of Javier Corral, which has been in power less than six months. A general public dissatisfaction has developed, even among those who voted for him, because of his manifest inability to fulfill the promises of real change and live up to the many expectations generated during his election campaign.

Miroslava was killed scarcely three days after a bloody confrontation between two criminal groups over a territorial dispute over one of the most important areas that connects the drug trafficking route with the Sierra Tarahumara, a fact that took the Governor by surprise. He was enjoying a vacation from March 17 to 21, playing golf in Mazatlán, saying that he had the right to practice his favorite sport on his time off.

Levity toward the magnitude of these crimes is unacceptable.

In the press conference that the Governor gave on Thursday at 2:30 PM, after a group of journalists went to the state legislature demanding justice for Miroslava and approval of a state law to protect journalists, when the Senate of the Republic and the Chamber of Deputies had already approved a point of agreement, to demand a clarification of the crime and the need to protect journalists, Javier Corral commented that one of the sisters of Miroslava Breach had said, the very same day, that a correspondent for La Jornada and contributor to the El Norte had been receiving death threats.

The Governor then announced what the guild expected to hear: that the only line of investigation into this crime will be Miroslava Breach’s work as a journalist, not only her most recent writings, but everything researched and published over the past months and years.

We now hope that a serious investigation will be conducted so that this crime does not go unpunished, as has happened with other murders of journalists, social leaders and human rights defenders, journalist Dora Villalobos said. Another encouraging announcement was the invitation by Governor Corral to integrate interested journalists into the inter-agency group to investigate the assassination of Miroslava.

Chihuahua is clamoring for justice. Miroslava’s voice is multiplied in thousands of voices and transcends borders. Miroslava lives in every honest, critical and courageous journalist of our country.

Original article: Crimen contra la libertad: Miroslava Breach, la mujer y la periodista

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