MEXICO CITY – More questions than answers continue to swirl around the killings five years ago of Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa and four women in Mexico City, a crime that served as a stark reminder of the dangers of practicing journalism in that Latin American country.
“There’s more doubt than certainty,” Leopoldo Maldonado, the deputy director of the Mexican chapter of British human rights organization Article 19, told EFE, referring to the torture-murders of Espinosa, activist Nadia Vera, domestic worker Alejandra Negrete, Colombian model Mile Martin and make-up artist Yesenia Quiroz in Mexico City’s affluent Colonia Narvarte neighborhood.
“And even though there are signs of improvement in (how authorities are now handling the case), that doesn’t correlate into a diligent and effective investigation,” he added.
Maldonado recalled that when current Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum took office in December 2018, there was the promise on the part of city prosecutors to restructure the investigation, but he said there still have been no tangible results.
In fact, the probe has practically been stalled since three suspects were detained in the two months following the multiple homicide, a trio of arrests that were seen as little more than a way for the previous administration of then-Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera to show some results and then bring the investigation to an abrupt close.
It remains unclear what happened on July 31, 2015, in the apartment in Colonia Narvarte, but Maldonado noted that the DNA of a male suspect found on ropes and sharp objects used by the assailants does not correspond to Espinosa, nor to any of the three detainees.
The attorney added that the investigation also has not looked into the telephone calls that the three perpetrators received before, during and after the killings.
“Five years (later) we don’t know what happened in the apartment, and that’s worrying,” Patricia Espinosa, Ruben’s sister, told EFE on Thursday. “There’s been goodwill (on the part of the new administration) … But we’re stuck on that same point and there’s been nothing in the way of progress.”
Only one of the three defendants has been sentenced thus far for the murders, Patricia Espinosa recalled, noting that investigators are trying to determine if there had been a fourth assailant inside the apartment. She also added that the probe has not yet determined who planned the murders.
She said the current Mexico City administration, unlike the previous government, has acknowledged her brother’s journalistic work and Vera’s activism as possible motives for the crimes, but that even so “we’re not getting anywhere.”
“I feel like the investigation is on pause, stationary, and what we need are results because we don’t know how many more years we’re going to have to wait,” the victim’s sister said.
Both the Ruben Espinosa and Vera had fled the Gulf coast state of Veracruz a few months before their deaths after having said they had been threatened and harassed in apparent retaliation for their work, which frequently provoked the ire of then-Gov. Javier Duarte.
In office from 2010 to 2016, Duarte was sentenced to nine years in prison for corruption in September 2018.
Photojournalist Alejandro Melendez, who met Ruben Espinosa after he had taken up residence in Mexico City, also expressed disappointment with the lack of progress in the investigation.
“The current authorities are not concerned with expediting the case,” he said, adding that even though they inherited the investigation “if they don’t resolve it, they’ll also be responsible for it remaining in silence.”
Maldonado, meanwhile, stressed the importance of getting to the bottom of this “emblematic case” that involves gender violence and femicide and has two reasonable hypotheses: people trafficking or a political motive.
Achieving results in the case “would help clarify what happens with these criminal networks and the reach they have even in Mexico City,” he said, referring to a potential criminal-political network built during Duarte’s administration.