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Fatal Shooting Of Journalist Highlights Rising Violence In Mexico


Hundreds of friends and colleagues of a Mexican journalist marched on government offices today demanding justice. The reporter Javier Valdez was shot dead yesterday in broad daylight near his office. He had covered crime and narco trafficking in one of the country's most violent states, Sinaloa. Now he is one of the latest victims in what is already a very bloody year in Mexico.

NPR's Carrie Kahn joined us earlier from Sinaloa. Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: I understand you are at the funeral home where people are viewing the body of Javier Valdez. Can you just describe the scene for us?

KAHN: It's a very sad scene, and it is just packed here. There's a viewing area, and there's about three other areas where you can sit. And they're just full of people, family and friends from all over the city, all over the state, from all different groups. Everybody has come here, it seems like, to pay their respects to Valdez, who was just a big figure here in Sinaloa and in Culiacan, the capital city.

His courage and his heart and the way he wrote - you know, he wasn't just a local reporter here. He worked for the French press agency. He also worked for the national newspaper La Jornada. He had been in journalism for 18 years. He was a veteran here. He was a colleague that everybody looked up to.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about the march on government offices earlier today. What are people demanding?

KAHN: There were a lot of angry cries, some for justice, some for the governor of the state to stop the violence. Many calls for an end of this impunity. Just in this year, 2017, six journalists have already been killed. And on the day that Javier was killed, there was also another attack on journalists in the nearby state of Jalisco.

It was just striking to hear the cries of many of Javier's colleagues and friends. You know, it's hot here. Everybody was sweating. There were tears streaming down from their faces. And there's just - was this feeling that many described to me of the impotence they feel, the helplessness and face of the violence that took the life of their dear friend. It was very poignant. And also, it was very painful to watch.

SHAPIRO: More broadly, the murder rate in Mexico has been rising over the last year. Why is violence increasing?

KAHN: There's a lot of speculation, a lot of different theories. There's concern about what's driving this murder rate up. It's as high as it was at the height of the drug war, which many people say was about 2011. Last year, as many as 25,000 people were killed, and many believe most of those homicides were related to organized crime or narco trafficking.

Some of the theories center around the fracturing of these drug cartels. Many high-profile cartel leaders have been arrested, including Joaquin El Chapo Guzman who headed the Sinaloa drug cartel here and is now in the U.S. awaiting trial. And so when these heads of these organizations are taken off - they call it the kingpin strategy of combating drug trafficking - then there's a rise in violence as the underlings really fight for the control of the groups and the territory.

SHAPIRO: There was a report that came out recently from the International Institute for Strategic Studies saying that Mexico is the second deadliest country in the world behind Syria. What is Mexico's response to that?

KAHN: Well, there was a lot of pushback on that study itself in characterizing Mexico as a country engulfed in armed conflicts. Mexico was very upset about that classification and vigorously disputed those findings. They said it was false, that just because the armed forces are enlisted to attack the violence in a country, that doesn't mean they should be compared to places like Syria and Iraq.

And they always point out that per capita, the violence in other parts of Latin America like - especially in Venezuela or Honduras is much higher. But regardless of the comparison, the government can't hide behind the fact that the violence in the country is alarmingly high, striking all sectors of society and not just localized to a few states had to have been the case in the last few years.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn speaking with us from Sinaloa in Mexico. Thank you, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF F.S. BLUMM AND NILS FRAHM'S "DAY ONE TWO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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