Duarte, the Veracruz governor, rarely holds news conferences, and when he does, it is sometimes to chastise journalists or lambaste social media.
In mid-March, Duarte ridiculed a photographer, Felix Marquez, whose photo of a newly formed vigilante group in the town of Tlalixcoyan belied official statements that law enforcement firmly controls Veracruz. Duarte said the photo was fake. His security chief, Arturo Bermudez, said Marquez should be thrown in jail.
Less than a week later, Marquez fled the state for exile in Mexico City because of the “very hostile” attitude toward him.
Marquez was lucky. He’s alive. Nine journalists have been murdered in Veracruz in two years, making it the deadliest state in the deadliest nation in the Americas for journalists. One of the reporters, Yolanda Ordaz, was decapitated, her severed head dumped behind a newspaper office. Four others were stuffed in plastic bags thrown in a sewage canal. A prominent columnist was slain in a gangland-style attack on his home that also killed his wife and a son.
The killings coincide with the near takeover of Veracruz by Los Zetas, a notoriously brutal gang dominant here, and the gang’s subsequent clashes with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which tried to dislodge Los Zetas. The groups corrupted entire municipal police forces and town halls in the state, prompting the arrival of naval marines in late 2011 to restore order.
Martinez, who was 48 at the time of her death, was cut from different cloth than many of her contemporaries in Veracruz journalism. She did not feed off the government publicity gravy train. She lived humbly; her home is on a dirt road in a working-class area of Xalapa, the state capital.
“She was very, very respected here, respected because she didn’t bend to a government that’s been quite authoritarian for decades,” said Jorge Morales, a fellow journalist who started an online portal, plumaslibres.com, with Martinez.
“She was my boss at the Politica newspaper,” said a Veracruz journalist, one of some 15 who fled the state in the past two years for fear of losing their lives. “She was very reserved, measured and even austere.”
The journalist, who lives in a safe house in Mexico City paid for by a press advocacy group, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that relatives still living in Veracruz might be slain.
“Regina didn’t just receive one threat. She’d received many,” the journalist said. “She was looking into very delicate matters.”
Asked whether the threats came from gangsters or government officials, the journalist shrugged: “It’s like trying to separate a zebra into black and white parts.”
As a correspondent for the nation’s premier national newsweekly, Martinez may have thought that she had a measure of protection.
If so, she was proved wrong after 10 p.m. on Friday, April 27, 2012, when someone came to her front gate. Martinez apparently recognized at least one of the visitors because she let them in. There was no sign of a break-in.
The next morning, a neighbor saw the gate open. She called out to Martinez but got no answer. So she dialed the police.
Investigators later said the attacker plunged Martinez’s head repeatedly into a toilet bowl, hit her with a fist wrapped in brass knuckles, then threw her so hard against a tub that it cracked her skull. Martinez fought with a kitchen knife, drawing blood from the attacker’s forearm. But as a slight woman, weighing only 108 pounds, she was no match.