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Mexican gov't officials accused of targeting slain reporter Juan Arjón with rumors

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Mexican gov't officials accused of targeting slain reporter Juan Arjón with rumors

Sonoran journalists say San Luis officials spreading disinformation on reporter to 'minimize' death, distract from rising violence

  • Juan Arjón López in one of the photos uploaded by Notiface, the Facebook news outlet run by his dear friend Jesús Gutierrez, when he went missing on Aug. 9.
    Notiface Prensa Digital De San Luis/FacebookJuan Arjón López in one of the photos uploaded by Notiface, the Facebook news outlet run by his dear friend Jesús Gutierrez, when he went missing on Aug. 9.
  • Juan Arjón (center) and Mayor Santos González Yescas of San Luis Río Colorado (right) posing with a certificate of recognition on Freedom of Expression Day, a Mexican holiday that falls on June 7. Arjón received the honor from the city of San Luis Río Colorado, where he worked for thirty years.
    Santos González Yescas/FacebookJuan Arjón (center) and Mayor Santos González Yescas of San Luis Río Colorado (right) posing with a certificate of recognition on Freedom of Expression Day, a Mexican holiday that falls on June 7. Arjón received the honor from the city of San Luis Río Colorado, where he worked for thirty years.
  • 'Juanito' Arjón, as he was known, standing with his long-time friend and fellow reporter Jesús
    A Qué Le Temes/Facebook'Juanito' Arjón, as he was known, standing with his long-time friend and fellow reporter Jesús "Chuyito" Gutiérrez in 2022 as they pose with a certificate of recognition for Arjón's news outlet ¿A Qué Le Teme? from the Independent Communicators and Journalists Group, or GCPI per its Spanish initials, a group that both were a part of.
  • Arjón in 2017 stirring a pot of chopped meat at the food stand where he worked while wearing a 'Claudia Pavlovich' apron from her campaign for governor.
    Juan Arjón López/FacebookArjón in 2017 stirring a pot of chopped meat at the food stand where he worked while wearing a 'Claudia Pavlovich' apron from her campaign for governor.
  • San Luis R.C. city spokesman Juan Pedro Morales taking his oath of office in Feb. 2022 for his current position. Gutiérrez is accusing Morales of spreading misinformation to 'minimize' Arjón's death and distract from rising rates of homicide in the city.
    688 Blogger/FacebookSan Luis R.C. city spokesman Juan Pedro Morales taking his oath of office in Feb. 2022 for his current position. Gutiérrez is accusing Morales of spreading misinformation to 'minimize' Arjón's death and distract from rising rates of homicide in the city.
  • Jesús Gutiérrez in Sept. 2022 broadcasting his live morning news updates to his Facebook news outlet Notiface, where he reads the newspapers, online news and takes calls from viewers.
    ScreenshotJesús Gutiérrez in Sept. 2022 broadcasting his live morning news updates to his Facebook news outlet Notiface, where he reads the newspapers, online news and takes calls from viewers.
  • A blurry picture from Juanito Arjón's funeral on Aug. 18, where fellow reporters from San Luis R.C. and the GCPI came to show their support.
    Denuncia Ciudadana/FacebookA blurry picture from Juanito Arjón's funeral on Aug. 18, where fellow reporters from San Luis R.C. and the GCPI came to show their support.

The violent death of Sonoran journalist Juan Arjón López in early August came after years of harassment by the city government of San Luis Río Colorado, the Mexican border town across from Yuma, Ariz., where the “rough” critic of crime and local officials made his name, other local reporters said.

Arjón has since become the target of disinformation by the same government, his former colleagues said, as other reporters in the area call for the dismissal of the city spokesperson.

Arjón worked as the unpaid publisher and lone reporter for the Spanish-language Facebook news page ¿A Qué Le Temes?, which translates to “What are you afraid of?” in English. Arjón was “well-known in the community,” people who knew him said in Spanish, but came to an untimely end at the age of 62, when his body was found miles from his home on the side of the highway on Aug. 16.

En español: Gobierno municipal en MX acusado de atacar al reportero asesinado Juan Arjón López con rumores

Arjón, who reportedly had been missing for days before his body was located, appeared to have been killed by a blow to the head, Mexican officials said.

"They killed this man specifically for his work" as a reporter, other local journalists maintain.

Rumors that local Mexican reporters say originate with city officials have attempted to paint Arjón as a drug addict with connections to smuggling cartels. But Arjón's friends and colleagues dispute the claims of cartel associations, saying the rumors are meant to discredit the late journalist.

“Juanito was very independent,” Jesus Gutiérrez, a fellow reporter from San Luis R.C. and Arjón's friend of 30 years, told the Tucson Sentinel. “He didn’t limit how he expressed himself, neither in his writing, nor in what he said or how he exposed the authorities.”

Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters.

At the time, he was the 18th journalist killed in Mexico in 2022, according to Article 19, an international human rights monitor. That number has climbed to 19 after the murder of Fredid Roman in the Southern Mexican state of Guerrero in late August. Another Mexican reporter went missing in late September.

The death of the journalist Roman made 2022 the deadliest year for Mexican reporters on record, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, who only have 13 journalist deaths in their count. Article 19 reports that the rate of impunity for murders of journalists is 99 percent, meaning their homicides are rarely solved.

Arjón's death was denounced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. An investigation into his death is still going on, led by state authorities, but he was found dead from “blunt force trauma to the head.”

Since Arjón's death, Gutiérrez and Luciano Zamora, another friend and fellow reporter from San Luis R.C., have called for the resignation of Juan Pedro Morales, the spokesperson for the Mexican city of 200,000, saying that he's been spreading disinformation about the Arjón and other reporters, including Gutiérrez. 

Though Morales denied the accusations when talking to the Tucson Sentinel, Gutiérrez said that Morales and other city officials had been harassing him and Arjón for years before Arjón's disappearance and death in August. Zamora, a freelance multimedia reporter from the area, said that Gutiérrez is telling the truth.

"It's completely true, Juan Pedro has forgotten that he was a reporter," Zamora said, when asked about Gutiérrez's accusations against Morales. "Juanito (Arjón) was a victim of the corruption that exists, more than anywhere else, within the city coffers."

Both Zamora and Gutiérrez have accused Morales of using and creating fake Facebook accounts to spread disinformation about Arjón, with Gutiérrez saying the goal of city officials is to "minimize" Arjón's death to protect "political aspirations for 2024," when the city is set to vote for its new mayor at the same time as the country selects a president.

Immediately before Arjón's body was found on Aug. 16 and in the days after, tabloid-style Facebook news outlets from across Mexico reported on Arjón's history of drug addiction, saying that he was caught up in rivalries between criminal groups and had "gone missing to get attention." Zamora and Gutiérrez blame this on Morales and other San Luis government officials.

Zamora said there are "profiles or pseudonyms being used — fake accounts on social networks like Facebook — that attack or defend according to the personal interests of this little group," referring to a small group of city officials whom he blames for the disinformation. Zamora added that there are "some high-ranking officials and police officers who all lend a hand themselves, due to corruption, and this includes journalists, which is the most pitiful and dangerous part of this case."

Juan Pedro Morales and the city of San Luis R.C.

Jesús Gutiérrez, a fellow San Luis reporter with his own Facebook news page, Notiface, and a long-time friend of Arjón, said in Spanish, that “Juanito (Arjón) was killed for his journalistic work” and now blames the city government for spreading misinformation and attacking both him and Arjón “to minimize Juanito’s death” and “protect their political aspirations.”

Gutiérrez was a “very close” friend of “Juanito,” or little Juan, as Arjón was affectionately known, for about 30 years, he said. They met when Arjón came to San Luis in the 1990s and worked at the San Luis Tribune, the local daily newspaper.

In particular, Gutiérrez is certain that Juan Pedro Morales, the city spokesperson, is responsible for online misinformation after Arjón’s disappearance, with claims that the journalist lost control of his drug addiction and was caught up with organized crime.

“Juan Pedro Morales has dedicated himself to distorting the information about Juanito Arjón, and distorting it and trying to smear him in his journalistic career that Juanito Arjón had because it didn’t do (the municipal government) any good,” Gutiérrez told “They want the case to end so it doesn’t affect them on the issue of security as I mentioned it.”  

Gutiérrez said that Juanito Arjón had been exposing how dangerous San Luis R.C. was, and the local government didn’t know what to do about the “insecurity” and rising crime rates in the city.

When talking with the Sentinel, Morales denied the accusations from Gutiérrez, but then went on to bring up claims about Arjón’s drug addiction and suicide attempts by Gutiérrez.

“Juan Arjón was well-known in the community even though his drug addictions never left him,” Morales said. “Whichever member of the media you ask here will tell you the same.”

Arjón had been suffering from a drug addiction for the past several years, Gutiérrez said, though his friend never told him what substance was at the center of his addiction. "I don't know, to tell the truth, what kind of drugs (Arjón was addicted to). The most common here is synthetic methamphetamine," he said, referring to crystal meth. Arjón had recovered by 2018, Gutiérrez said, but he had been living in rehabilitation center when he went missing and was driving a car loaned to him by the center.

“Despite everything, the fact that he’s had problems with addiction — I think it happened regardless of whether he was interested in that world of investigating or connecting organized crime to his own issues with addiction,” said Gutiérrez. "He was very independent from it and did his job the way he knew how."

Either way, “he had already recovered” several years ago, and Gutierrez did in fact have two suicide attempts during the pandemic, he said, “even though we did an anti-doping test by blood to know if I was taking some kind of substance.”

“For political reasons, they began to attack me from that angle or they began to defame me in that sense, but, well, more importantly, I have witnesses, testimony from medical specialists, my family were there in person and fellow friends who know that I fell into a very strong depression at that time,” Gutiérrez said. “Juan Pedro and the people who said that about me, that I was out there using drugs and that stuff, even though we did drug tests, but they never wanted to accept that.”

Morales sent a police report about Gutiérrez’s suicide attempt in 2020 to the Sentinel, and said he was “drugged up with suicidal intent on two occasions.”

“As well as this case,” Morales said by text. “I have documented arrests of the journalist’s (Gutiérrez) children for drug possession, violent robberies, fights, injuries and other crimes.”

Arjón and Gutierrez were and are hard-working journalists, though, said Caty Navarro, an independent journalist in the Sonora and Baja California border area.

Navarro knew Arjón by reputation, but is “very friendly” with Gutierrez, whom she calls “Chuyito.” She also knew that Arjón “wasn’t a professional with a career as a journalist or communicator,”but his addiction never seemed to affect his work as a government watchdog.

She first knew of Arjón as the founder and one of the reporters for Denuncia Ciudadana, a Facebook news page with national coverage of Mexico. The news outlet, whose name means “the citizen's complaint,” featured “news, reports, sights, humor, social services and much more,” according to its Facebook description, and today has more than 350,000 followers.

Denuncia Ciudadana was where Arjón made his reputation as “a critic of the government,” Navarro said, but the entire time, his problem seemed to be a lack of financial support, not a drug addiction, she said.

“He was old school, and it never seemed to me like his work was supported,” Navarro said. “He did what he could, and he never seemed very affected by his situation with drugs.”

Navarro said that "in press releases, the municipal government authorities here in San Luis Río Colorado… lied, stigmatized and pointed out that side of Juanito,” talking about Arjón’s drug problems.

She also knows Morales personally and even lived near him for a small time. She said that Morales used to have a Facebook news page like Arjón and Gutiérrez but has since stopped delivering government information that helped reporters in San Luis report on crime and violence.

“After he joined the municipal government, there were rarely articles like before that covered live broadcasts of shootings or about violent situations in the community that are unfortunately happening daily now,” Navarro said. “After he joined the municipal government, all the articles that he had written like that disappeared from his Facebook, and very seldom are there articles criticizing the government now.”

Morales joined the San Luis government in February, but worked as a reporter for more than a decade in the city. He even considered Arjón “a personal friend also, at one time.”

‘La verdad sobre Juan Arjón’

In the days immediately before and after the discovery of Arjón’s body, tabloid-style news outlets with thousands of followers on Facebook posted stories about Arjón that called him a “pseudo-journalist” involved with organized crime and who had been hiding in a rehab center — or was still alive and hiding there — because he was caught up in a violent rivalry between cartels.

Arjón’s addiction “wasn’t so serious though,” Gutierrez said. The local government used Arjón’s addiction “as an excuse to try and dispute the information” about Arjón’s death, Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez describes himself as “very critical of the government” as well and said that if he were a drug addict, he expects the local government would treat him the same way. Morales "attacks the media that gets involved with the government, the ones who start to constantly criticize,” he said.

The day before the Sonoran attorney general announced in a press conference that authorities had found Juanito Arjón’s body, the Mexican news site “El Sonora de Hoy” published a Facebook post about Arjón titled “The truth about Juan Arjón and the Disinformation that it causes,” in Spanish.

The Facebook post had a picture of Arjón next to a separate picture of a man who had similar gray head of hair, tanned brown skin and short stature. The other man, who was supposed to be Arjón, according to the post, is standing in front of a background that says “San Luis RC” and holding a small revolver.

Arjón had been missing for a week when the post was published on Aug. 15.

“In recent days, we've come to know about the supposed disappearance of Juan Arjón, a social media user who live streams to harm groups or parties that are outside his interest,” the post starts.

“It turns out this is not the first time that Arjón disappears to get attention, because it’s been said that in previous occasions that a criminal organization rival to the one he’s part of lifted him,” it continues. “Actually, Juan Arjón lives in a rehabilitation center, and he’s not working for any media, which puts a hard break to the theory that his investigations are supported by journalism.”

“On the contrary, he’s been branded a character who spreads rumors to sow fear in the public,” then the post ends with a warning: “We have to be careful about the information that we share.”

The post received more than 200 likes and was put out by a news organization that has more than 4,000 likes and close to 5,000 followers on Facebook.

On Aug. 16, the day Arjón’s death was announced, the much smaller Sonora Elige posted a video of a group of people arguing with Arjón with a post reading “Juan Arjón, murdered for links with criminal groups, disguised as a journalist, threatened people by putting up lies on social media and damaging their reputation.” The video had more than 82,000 views.

Also on Aug. 16, the same image of a man who looks like Arjón holding a gun was used in a Facebook post by Tamaulipas Decide, a news site based in Tamaulipas, the state in northeast Mexico near the border with Texas. Their post reads, “addictions, organized crime and social networks — the true reasons for the murder of Juan Arjón, a Sonoran who supported the cartels by publishing false reports with social media profiles.”

On the same day, El Diario de Sonora, a Facebook news outlet with 65 followers published a Facebook post with a video recorded by Arjón of him following a councilwoman as he asks her for an interview to answer to accusations.

The text of the post reads “Juan Arjón: the pseudo-journalist who acted in favor of organized crime to damage the image of political opponents was found dead. It is presumed it was because of his links with criminal groups.”

At the end of the video, the councilwoman asks, “and what about the accusations against you?” to which Arjón replies, “What am I accused of?”

Similar posts with videos and doctored images of Juan Arjón, including one of him smiling and standing in front of a case full of drugs and paraphernalia, appeared on other Facebook news pages with small numbers of followers, though many of the posts received hundreds of likes while the videos often had 1,000 or more viewers.

“They’re trying to make everything all right that way… Everything that smears (Arjón), everything that comes out independently that has to do with Juanito Arjón is from the municipal government here in San Luis Río Colorado,” Gutiérrez said. “Juan Pedro Morales uses his personal (Facebook) page, he uses other false accounts, everything comes from him.”

Though Gutierrez considers Morales “very dishonorable” as a communicator, he also considers Morales actions to be “chiquiadas,” a term roughly meaning child’s play or little distracting games. The real responsibility lies in the fellow media members in Mexico and around the world to not fall for the tricks of the SLRC government, he warned.

“Here, what the government is doing is, even after Juan’s death, they’re attacking him to minimize the situation and so the international media, international rights and journalism protection groups don’t take it so seriously,” he said. “It would be unprofessional on our part, right, to fall into their game and their power.”

Juanito Arjón — ‘El Sicario de la Pluma’

Arjón moved to the Sonoran border town from his birthplace, the desert city of Gomez Palacio in the Mexican state of Durango.

He moved to San Luis Río Colorado in the mid-90s with the intention of crossing the border to the U.S., but he stayed at the border once he started working as a reporter for the Tribune, Navarro said.

He never married, and all his relatives were in Gomez Palacio. His only family in San Luis were the other reporters such as Gutiérrez.

Arjón was a member of the Independent Communicators and Journalists Group, or GCPI per its Spanish initials, a network of journalists working near the border at San Luis R.C. who publish news on their own sites or work as freelancers. Gutiérrez is the president of the GCPI, and Zamora is also a member.

The 62-year-old Arjón was a 30-year veteran of local reporting in San Luis. He developed his “old school” style by writing about crime and criticizing city officials, which earned him the nickname “el sicario de la pluma,” or the hitman with the feather pen.

“He got that nickname because he caused a lot of damage, more than anything for politicians," Gutiérrez said. “He would always bombard them with his articles."

During the past two decades, Arjón began reporting more through Facebook news pages “because pages belong to Facebook, and they’re independent,” Gutiérrez said.

Arjón first started “Denuncia Ciudadana” in 2011 then went on to start “¿A Qué Le Temes?” in March 2021, where he focused on his interest in covering crime, city government and community life.

Gutierrez described Arjón as “very sarcastic, very tough with his criticisms, mostly against organized crime, the government, politicians, that kind of stuff, right? He was very direct, very much, and he wasn’t afraid. He didn’t mind the consequences.”

“He was very brave, he was very direct, he would come in and record you and he didn't care,” Gutiérrez said. “He would tell people ‘you are taking money from organized crime, that you are taking money from the city council, from the government or that you, you’re ok.’”

Like many journalists in the area, including Gutiérrez, Arjón made money from a day job, not from his reporting. After Arjón went missing, one of the pictures that frequently appeared in articles about him was of him stirring chopped meat at a food stand while wearing an apron bearing in large, pink letters the name “Claudia Pavlovich,” who was the governor of Sonora from 2016 to 2021.

Arjón uploaded it in 2017 to one of his Facebook accounts — as he had several dating back to 2015 — and wrote that “It was the only thing they gave me in the campaign, hahaha.” He had covered her campaign when she came to San Luis in 2014, but he also supported her, writing that “Sonora needs a woman for governor.”

He had an arrangement so that “if some kind of journalistic work came up of some broadcast, a report, a complaint or an advertisement, he would ask his bosses if he could go work, and they would give him time,” Gutiérrez said.

“He had a very good relation with his boss, the owners of the little stand where he worked,” Gutiérrez said. “Juanito would go and report and do his articles. Because at the end of the day, the page that Juanito had, well, it was his.”

Gutiérrez, similarly, owns a small family farm that he takes care of with his sons when he’s not writing articles or uploading videos to Notiface or him reading the local newspapers and taking calls from viewers. Many journalists in San Luis live that way, Gutiérrez said.

“That’s the advantage that many of us in the media have, those of us that have our own pages,” he said. “There’s no schedule or anything like that. You can’t even keep a specific schedule really. It’s the information that comes to you.”

Many of the posts on “¿A Qué Le Temes?” are about crime in the city, disappearances and gun and drug smuggler arrests as well as community events, such as driving courses, and ceremonies, such as ribbon cuttings.

Arjón also covered demonstrations and protests against city officials, including the public works director and Mayor Santos González Yescas, for creating poor working conditions and the director of public safety for a lack of information about the disappearance of a community member.

It was his coverage of the rising crime rate that really bothered city officials, however, Gutiérrez said. “They didn’t know what to do about all the insecurity that we’re experiencing here in San Luis Río Colorado,” he said.

The city has recently seen a spike in violence, with shootouts in the street that have killed police and bystanders, kidnappings in broad daylight and bodies thrown in pits near the border, among other incidents this year. San Luis saw 99 murders from January to August this year, compared with 72 during the same time frame in 2021, according to the most recent annual report by the Sonoran Security Observatory, an nonprofit organization.

Homicide rates during those two January-August time frames in 2021 and 2022 dropped statewide in Sonora and nationally across Mexico, according to the same report, but Sonora still had 1,150 homicides in that period while Mexico had 20,722. Those numbers are down from their 2021 8-month numbers of 1,304 and 22,631 statewide and nationwide numbers, respectively. 

San Luis R.C. was the only Sonoran city to see an increase in homicides among those with a population greater than 100,000, including Hermosillo, Guaymas and Nogales.

¿A Qué Le Temes?

Arjón first went missing on Aug. 9. He had finished his shift at the food stand where he made his money, Gutiérrez said, and after he got in his car and drove off to cover a city event, no one had ever seen him again.

When Arjón vanished, it was reporters from the GCPI who went looking for him and who put together a search party with the help of the city police and authorities, though Navarro considered it "curious" that the police would help the group with the search considering they had a history of harassing Arjón.

Zamora made several announcements on his personal Facebook page for people to join the GCPI in their search efforts while he was missing.

After having been missing for a week, Arjón was found dead on Aug. 16 by the side of a highway, in a barren stretch of Sonora dotted with small hamlets, about 12 miles from his home.

He had died from "blunt force trauma to the head," and his body was “in an advanced state of decomposition,” “partially covered in plastic” and “wearing his media affiliation,” according to a press conference and bulletin from the Sonoran Attorney General’s Office.

Gutiérrez is certain that "Juanito was murdered" for his reporting, he said, even if he doesn't know who exactly did it. 

“They killed this man specifically for his work. They didn’t kill for any other reason but for his journalistic work,” Gutiérrez said. “I don’t know if it was organized crime that did it or another person, or whatever. I don’t know that.”

Yet even though he admits Gutiérrez has no clue who actually killed his friend, he holds that the government in San Luis Río Colorado is responsible “for misinforming about what happened with our colleague Juanito Arjón. They sure have a great deal of responsibility for that.“

The local government should be taking responsibility for “informing the people well about what happened with Juan Arjón and his work,” he said and that’s the job that “Juan Pedro Morales has and the Social Communication (department) has… they have that responsibility and it’s been completely the opposite.”

“I’ve known Juanito for a long time. I can’t be sure who killed him or who murdered him. To start with, no one reports to me, I’m not an attorney, I’m not a public official, I'm not a judge, nothing like that, not even an investigative agent,” he said. “What I am certain of is that he was killed for his journalistic work, for how he was journalistically, how he asserted himself and the way he was.”

His certainty comes from the years of harassment that he and Arjón dealt with because of city government, he said.

In 2018, Arjón was pulled over by San Luis police and arrested for having meth in his possession. The drugs were planted though, Gutiérrez said. "Juanito was lucky because after a few months he proved that they weren't his drugs," he said.

Local government officials knew about Arjón's personal struggles because his drug addiction happened when he was already known in the community, Gutiérrez said.

Even after he went to a rehabilitation center and "recovered 100%," the city continued to try and “connect him to organized crime,” he said.

On Aug. 17, the day after Arjón’s death, the GCPI published an open letter signed by its members “demanding” the resignation of Morales for “minimizing the disappearance of our colleague (Juan) López Arjón.”

“We demand the immediate dismissal of the director of Social Communications,” which is the name of the San Luis R.C. public information office, “of Juan Pedro Morales, for using public resources and the government apparatus to attack each and every citizen who stands against the political interests of his group, which includes Mayor Santos González Yescas,” the letter reads.

The SLRC government has been trying to keep Arjón’s death from “affecting them politically in the next elections in 2024,” which includes a mayoral race, Gutierrez said, though Mexico’s mayors only serve one six-year term like the president, whose current term will also end in 2024.

Mayor González and his son, Alejandro González, who became the Sonoran state prosecutor for their district in San Luis R.C. in January this year, have aspirations to stay in power, however, Gutiérrez said. Gutiérrez expects the son to seek his father’s seat as mayor in 2024.

“Their side of the government wants to continue the administration, and they want to stay in control and more than anything, keep power on their side,” Gutiérrez said. “Look at their aspirations for 2024, along with the known fact that there’s a line from father to son. The son — of Mayor Santos González, I mean — the son's aspirations is, ​​above all, to take or seek the municipal presidency (the mayor’s office) and continue their dictatorship, especially through the municipal government. Everything starts from there.”

Zamora also agreed that Mayor González is involved in Arjón's disappearance and death and the disinformation against him, saying "of course he is" and "of course it's true that the mayor is capable" of killing Arjón and spreading disinformation against him.

At the age of 21, Alejandro became the youngest prosecutor ever to work for the state of Sonora, according to a Facebook article by San Luis R.C., the city’s largest social media-based news outlet.

“This has to do with that, it has to do with the aspirations of all politicians, current officials, the current municipal president, the current governor, the current local deputy, the current federal deputy, the current deputies,” Gutiérrez said. “In other words, everything has to do with the political aspirations of all those characters, municipal and state officials.”

Gutierrez lives with federal protection which he "asked for directly from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a trip I had to Mexico City,” he said. He sought the protection after he was "blindfolded," "tortured and beaten" by Rafael Vázquez Hernández, the former director of Public Safety and Municipal Traffic for San Luis and now the police chief for the city of Tijuana across the border from San Diego.

“The police took me and held me unjustly,” Gutierrez said. “They took me and were torturing me in a cell in the command center to get information out of me."

Gutiérrez said that Vázquez had thought that he had incriminating information against a city official on a USB drive, which Gutierrez didn't have. Gutierrez was lucky that people had seen him being taken and reported it, he said, which got him out of custody in a few hours, he said.

It's the way the police work most of the time in San Luis, if not in all of Mexico, Gutiérrez said, as it's common for them to plant drugs to take their critics off the street.

“That's what the police do regularly as they don't know how to interrogate or investigate," he said. “It's the way most of the police operate, planting drugs on people in their custody. In this case, we're talking about people who upset them or whom they don't want on the streets anymore, things like that."

Gutiérrez's house was also shot up in 2013, and he thought it had to do with the city government. An investigator from the state attorney general's office, however, found that the target was meant to be Gutierrez's neighbor, who was involved with organized crime. Gutiérrez said he believes the authorities.

State officials are leading the investigation into Arjón’s death, and “no line of investigation will be ruled out,” Sonoran Attorney General Claudia Contreras said in a press conference.

Gutierrez said that he trusts "50%" of the people in the Sonoran Attorney General office, “but the other 50%, I don’t.”

“50% because so far there has been an investigation underway. They’ve met with people, colleagues, even the media,” he said. “No, because it’s up to them to inform us as journalists, as the media, and we’ve been all over Juanito’s case and they haven’t said anything.”

Gutiérrez is convinced that the state attorney’s general office “doesn't want to say anything. That's why I don't trust that 50%. Nothing has been said. How are the investigations going? Are there detainees, are there advances, is there this and that? No, they haven't said anything and they don't want to say. That's why I don't trust the other 50%.”

Gutiérrez is, however, thankful that he lives where he does, saying “thank God” that “this is where I live,” in San Luis R.C. “in the neighborhood that I live.”

“In the neighborhood where I live and here in San Luis Río Colorado, fortunately there are more good people than bad,” he said. “And those people that are good, they have helped me and taken care of me and they have warned me and they have always stayed nearby in case of what could happen to me.”

Much of that community support comes from what he was able to contribute as a journalist, he said.

“Many people take care of me, many people love me because I have always had the fortune of supporting and helping people and to contribute, not just with informative articles, but if they have some need or some disability or some economic problem,” he said. “I’ve always contributed with what I know how to do journalistically by informing and asking the community for support for these people.

The community around him has kept him safe, he said, even though he admits, “sure, I'm afraid because as I told you, I'm human, but I'm not a coward, which is different.”

“All of us are afraid and then more with the work that we have and more about everything I've been through, the attacks, all the problems that have happened to me,” he said.

Likewise, Juanito “wasn’t a coward, Juanito wasn’t at all, not even in the face of people who confronted him or who threatened him,” Gutiérrez said.

“I think, and in particular because of everything that happened to him, Juanito was killed. Juanito didn’t die by himself, nor did he die from an overdose, nor did he die from any of those things that might be put out there,” he said. “Why? Because I knew Juanito in his journalistic way, as he put Juanito out there. Juanito didn't care.”

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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