By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The call comes at six a.m. from a fellow photographer at the paper, Gabriel Huge, a man who survived a bad accident and rides a scooter to crime scenes and walks with a cane. He is also a man who does not back down: Miguel has photographs of a swarm of federal police in flak jackets surrounding him for taking pictures without their permission. In the images, his face looks fierce and empty of fear.
Gabriel says, ''You need to come to the house. Something has happened.''
When he arrives, the city police have taped off the residence.
Gabriel says, ''They have killed your father, mother and brother.''
Miguel walks up the stairs to the second floor. His mother is outside the door of the bedroom, face down in a pool of blood. His father is propped in a sitting position on the bed, his face destroyed by bullets. Down the hall, his brother Misael, known as el gordo in the family because of his weight, is face down in blood. He is wearing yellow shorts his mother had made for him because it was hard to find clothes in his size. He has three rounds in the back of his neck and head. Miguel thinks of all the times he has come here early in the morning or late at night and tiptoed down the hall lest he wake anyone. He goes back into his parents' room, sits down in front of their bodies and says goodbye. He is weeping now.
The police ask, ''Is there any electronic surveillance or closed-circuit TV at this house?''
He says, ''No.''
Miguel knows what the question means: If there is a security camera, they want to know so they can destroy the evidence.
He helps carry out the bodies. First, his mother wrapped in sheets. Then his father ― he remembers thinking as he carries him of reproaching him for not having any security measures in the house. And, finally, his brother, el gordo, the fat one, his brother wrapped in an old red bedspread. It is very hard to get him down the stairs. Miguel breaks down sobbing. He asks himself, ''What happened here?'' His family has just been annihilated by 35 gunshots fired at close range. While the state police are still at the house, they tell him they will send a special team of bodyguards.
No one asks him for a statement.
***At the funeral home, Miguel makes arrangements. A reporter from La Jornada, a major left-of-center Mexico City daily that both he and his father had done work for, tells him he must get out of Veracruz if he wants to live. He remains at the funeral home all day, and just before dawn, makes a quick trip to his parents' house with Vanessa, then his fiancée, to get some clothes. The bodyguards ride with them. On the way back to the funeral home, a taxi follows them for fifteen blocks. The guard draws his gun, tells Miguel to speed through a red light at a roundabout, and they manage to lose the tail. They get back to the funeral home, and it is under 24-hour guard by Mexican Navy troops wearing ski masks and Veracruz state police. At the funeral, he writes down later, ''A neighbor told me that he had seen three trucks and two people who had gone into my parents' house. Another neighbor told me she had heard shots and that for about a week before, she had seen a group of people on motorcycles who seemed to be watching…. She had heard them talking on their radios, saying, ''We are already here guarding the spot.''
None of these neighbors give statements to the police.
Officials are at the graveside, the caskets lowered into the sand that is Veracruz. Navy vehicles escort the cortege. State dignitaries promise an investigation, justice and punishment. The ceremony is surrounded by soldiers. This does not make Miguel feel safe.
The day after the funeral, the security detail escorts him and Vanessa to the airport and they flee the city where his father is famous, where he has spent his entire life. Miguel ponders the military precision he saw at the crime scene and the neighbors' whispered accounts of the killings.
He remembers opening the door to his brother's room that morning and wanting to say, ''Wake up! Wake up!''
Miguel goes to the Mexico City headquarters of La Jornada. The editors give him a desk job because they do not think it is safe for him to be out on the street. Simply leaving Veracruz cannot protect him.
Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, Milo Vela's reporting partner, is found at four a.m. July 26. For the past month, she had been investigating Milo Vela's murder and had gone missing two days before. The body is dumped outside another Veracruz newspaper, Imagen, the head cut off. A message left with the corpse advises, ''Friends can also betray you.'' The attorney general of Veracruz announces that this ''unusual assassination was due to the fact that the woman and single mother maintained links with criminal gangs.'' He asserts her murder has nothing to do with her work as a journalist.