Mourners gather to bid farewell to murdered Mexican reporter

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A woman places a photo of slain journalist Julio Valdivia on his casket during a wake for him inside his home in Tezonapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. Valdivia's decapitated body was found five miles from Tezonapa a day earlier, and is at least the third reporter killed in the area since 2015. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

TEZONAPA – Mourners gathered Thursday at the wake of a newspaper reporter whose decapitated body was found a day earlier in an area of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz that has suffered months of organized crime violence.

The newspaper El Mundo in the city of Cordoba reported Wednesday that the body of reporter Julio Valdivia was found near his motorcycle on railroad tracks in the town of Motzorongo. Family and friends paid their respects, but were hesitant to talk citing pervasive fear in the area.

Valdivia covered general news in that part of Veracruz, including crime. In Mexico, those beat reporters often draw the attention of criminal groups that are upset by coverage or try to control what stories are published.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday that he knows journalists do “heroic” work in that part of Veracruz and in other places.

“That is why all cases must be investigated and those responsible punished,” he said.

Valdivia, a father of six, was at least the sixth journalist killed this year in Mexico. Friend Angela Carrasco said the newspaper hadn’t paid him his complete salary in eight months. He was making 1,000 pesos or about $47 a week, she said. Carrasco said her friend was serious about his work and always trying to get ahead for his daughters. “That's what he lived for,” she said.

The Veracruz state prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that its investigation would include Valdivia’s work as a journalist as one of the principal lines of inquiry. Mexican authorities have been criticized in previous cases for quickly discounting any connection between murdered journalists and their work.

The Veracruz State Commission for Attention and Protection of Journalists said in a statement that Valdivia had not reported receiving threats to them and therefore did not have special protection measures. It condemned Valdivia’s murder and called on authorities to deeply investigate any connection to his work.