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Mexican journalist, family slain

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Gunmen kill a columnist in Veracruz, who wrote about corruption and drug violence. His wife and son are also slain.

June 20, 2011|By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
  • Local police stand outside the home of Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco in the Gulf port city of Veracruz, Mexico.
Local police stand outside the home of Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco in the… (Felix Marquez / Associated…)

Reporting from Mexico City — A newspaper columnist known for writing about corruption and drug violence was slain early Monday — along with his wife and son — by gunmen who broke into the family home as they slept.

Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco was shot to death in the port city of Veracruz, the latest of nearly 70 Mexican journalists slain since 2000 and the second to be killed in Veracruz this year. The press in Mexico has increasingly become a target of warring drug cartel factions and corrupt local governments.

Lopez Velasco, 55, wrote a regular column for the newspaper Notiver, one of the largest in Veracruz state, and served as a top editor. His columns frequently highlighted government corruption or detailed matters involving drug trafficking and other crimes and violence. He often skewered politicians, police and criminals, whoever he thought deserving of criticism, colleagues said.

"Everyone knew him or knew of him," Gerardo Perdomo, head of the Veracruz Commission to Defend Journalists, said by telephone from the city. "He was very critical. He told the truth."

Despite the frequency with which journalists are slain in Mexico, it is highly unusual for their families to be targeted. Lopez Velasco was killed with his wife, Agustina Solana, 53, and 21-year-old son, Misael, a student, state government officials and the newspaper said. Another of Lopez's sons, who lived elsewhere, worked as a photographer for the same newspaper as his father.

The family's home is two blocks from a police station, Notiver said.

Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte went to the Notiver newsroom later Monday and condemned the "cowardly" attack that "harms all society."

"This is not an isolated act," he told assembled editors and reporters. "This is linked to the presence of criminal groups [and] reflects what is occurring in the entire country."

Duarte promised an investigation "to the last consequences." However, few crimes against journalists, which also include kidnappings, torture and intimidation, are ever solved.

The newspaper, in a note published on its website, demanded that those responsible for the triple murder be punished with the full weight of the law, "fall who may."

Journalist safety groups rank Mexico as the deadliest country in the Americas for the exercise of the profession, and one of the most dangerous in the world.

Mexican news media said the gray-haired, bespectacled Lopez Velasco was the author of an early book on drug trafficking in Mexico, an account written in the 1990s detailing a deadly skirmish between army and police over drug shipments.

wilkinson@latimes.com

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