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Third journalist killed or kidnapped in Mexico in 2 1/2 weeks

January 8, 2010 |  4:59 pm
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He'd just knocked off work when Valentin Valdes Espinosa, a reporter for the Zocalo of Saltillo newspaper, and two other journalists were intercepted by two trucks full of gunmen late Thursday. Valdes Espinosa's body, bound, gagged and bearing five bullet holes, was found Friday morning. Tacked to it: a written warning of the kind often left by drug traffickers.

The two reporters with Valdes Espinosa were let go or got away, authorities said.

Valdes Espinosa, 28, is the third journalist slain or kidnapped in Mexico in the last 18 days. On Dec. 22, newspaper publisher Alberto Velasquez, from the resort town of Tulum, was shot to death by gunmen on a motorcycle. On Dec. 30, veteran crime reporter Jose Luis Romero was seized by masked men in Los Mochis, in the drug-center state of Sinaloa. He's not been seen since. Hours after his disappearance, the lead detective on the case was slain.

Already, Mexico in 2009 had earned the unwanted designation of Latin America's most dangerous country for reporters, and one of the most perilous in the world. That's according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and similar human rights organizations.

The Times has written about the risks Mexican journalists face, especially those who attempt to cover the raging battles between government forces and drug gangs and among the gangs themselves. The stories included ones focusing on slain journalists Bladimir Antuna and Rodolfo Rincon. Traffickers and other criminals seek to intimidate reporters into silence, and it often works.

-- Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City


Photo: Valentin Valdes Espinosa. Credit: Zocalo de Saltillo

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