CHILPANCINGO, Mexico – A journalist was shot and killed in the violence-plagued Tierra Caliente region of southern Mexico, police said.
Cecilio Pineda Birto, 38, was attacked by two young assailants on motorcycle at around 7 pm Thursday while waiting at a car wash in Ciudad Altamirano, a town in the northwestern part of Guerrero state.
He died while being rushed to a nearby hospital, according to police.
Pineda, who specialized in sensationalist reporting on crime and drug trafficking and had around 50,000 followers on Facebook, was a contributor to the La Jornada Guerrero daily and editor of the La Voz de Tierra Caliente newspaper.
His stories also appeared in regional papers such as Despertar del Sur and El Debate de los Calentanos, as well as in national daily El Universal.
In September 2015, Pineda was targeted at his home by armed assailants; he was unharmed in that attack, while one of the suspects was arrested in February 2016.
In recent months, Pineda had criticized a member of the Guerrero state legislature, Saul Beltran Orozco, over his alleged ties to the suspected head of a kidnapping gang in San Miguel Totolapan, which like Cuidad Altamirano is located in Tierra Caliente.
The Guerrero state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday night that it had launched an investigation into Pineda’s murder.
The Tierra Caliente region, which straddles the states of Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico, has been racked in recent years by violence stemming from a dispute involving three organized crime gangs: La Familia Michoacana, Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) and Los Tequileros.
Those groups are battling for control of that area known for opium poppy cultivation and large-scale heroin production.
Several largely indigenous communities in that part of Guerrero have formed self-defense groups to protect themselves from extortion and drug-related violence, while dozens of schools have been forced to shut down because teachers – fearful of being kidnapped – refuse to show up for work.
A total of 11 reporters and media workers were killed last year in Mexico, the third-most dangerous country for these professionals after Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the International Federation of Journalists.