By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Miguel and Vanessa are paralyzed. For three days they cannot leave their Mexico City apartment. They have entered a new phase of exile. First they lose their native state. Now they feel their nation slipping away. In Veracruz, fifteen crime reporters flee the city. Gabriel Huge gets a call informing him he will be killed. He flees, also.
Miguel had tasted threats before, as had his father. But things began to change in 2006, when the new president, Felipe Calderón, announced that he was hurling the Mexican army against drug organizations. Strange criminals suddenly appeared in Veracruz, guys who did not even know the streets, their reckless driving causing more car accidents. And killings. Miguel is covering a crime scene or accident, and someone shoves a gun in his mouth and lectures him on how he should do his job. Death threats mount.
One night in May 2010, a cop pulls Miguel over. Vanessa is riding along. The cop is hostile but allows Miguel to drive on. A few minutes later, the street is blocked by guys with AR-15s wearing federal police uniforms. They tell him, ''Right now you are going to get really fucked up.'' (''Vas a ver, hijo de la chingada.'') They take him, leaving the girl behind. They go behind a hotel, beating him all the way there.
At least four more vehicles arrive and a man with one glass eye and the look of the boss gets out and tells him that what he was doing could get him killed. Miguel asks the man if he is a Zeta and he nods. He asks Miguel if he wants to die and Miguel says no. The man says, well, you can go this time, but the next time we will kill you. They dump him where he was originally snatched. He calls his father, who advises him not to report the incident.
Miguel explains, ''In Mexico, you learn to live with fear. You see bodies decapitated, you see police covered in blood. The fear just gets bigger and bigger. You see the decay of everything.''
By July 2011, when Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz is butchered, she is the seventh Mexican reporter killed that year, the third in Veracruz.
On September 20, during the afternoon rush hour, two trucks block the viaduct by a high-end shopping mall in Boca del Rio, a suburb of Veracruz. Drivers watch men methodically dump 35 bodies, twelve of them women. The men then leave, and no one stops them and no police come. The bodies are marked with the letter Z to suggest they are members of Los Zetas, a criminal organization that began as a special military unit created by the Mexican government and trained by the United States to fight drug organizations. The unit was designed to be incorruptible. Almost immediately, the DEA began secret payments to the group. Eventually, its members left for the better employment benefits of the drug industry and became the Zetas. The dumped bodies in Boca del Rio are bound with plastic ties at the wrists and ankles, restraints only available to the police and army.
The official story, that the dead are Zetas, holds for a while and is widely reported in the U.S. press. Then it cracks. Reforma, a right-of-center pro-government paper, talks to the families of the dead and discovers that they are mainly petty criminals, drug addicts and prostitutes, if they had any criminal records at all. These facts are hardly reported in the U.S. press and soon vanish from the press in Mexico for fear of repercussion.
Miguel gets reports in Mexico City. His friend and fellow photographer Guillermo Luna has a cousin who is walking to get a bag of ice in Boca del Rio on September 16, Mexican Independence Day, when he sees some adolescents celebrating in the street. Police sweep in and take the kids.
A woman goes to the police station seeking her teenage son. She is told he is not in custody. Later she learns his body is one of those dumped by the fashionable mall. A video circulates on the Internet from a group called the Zeta Killers. They wear masks and sit at a table and claim credit for the killing. Miguel learns that they are really former Veracruz policemen playacting.
Miguel and Vanessa spend the rest of the year in limbo. The United States usually denies political asylum to Mexican reporters, because to grant it would constitute an admission about the real nature of Mexico. They return to her grandparents in Veracruz and hide. Then they fly to Reynosa, on the Texas border, and begin the paperwork for a U.S. visa. They return to Veracruz, get their car, and fling themselves into a new land.
They go to Corpus Christi and end up in a cheap motel as their tiny hoard of cash dribbles away. They cannot legally work. They yearn for Mexico. At times Miguel can hear his mother's voice.
The years passed, and at the beginning of the 1990s my father left Notiver…above all because they were censoring some of his articles and his columns…. Then my father ended up without a job and went to work as a taxi driver, saying that he knew the city perfectly from covering the news and it would be an easy job for him.