New York (AFP) – The sons of former drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman killed Mexican journalist Javier Valdez because he insisted on publishing an interview with a drug trafficker, who told of the murder in court Wednesday.
Damaso Lopez Nunez, known as “The Lawyer,” testified that the slain journalist — who specialized in drug trafficking reporting — “disobeyed the threatening orders of my compadre’s children and that’s why they killed him.”
The testimony came as part of Guzman’s trial in New York, where he faces trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.
Valdez was an AFP stringer and co-founder of the weekly Riodoce de Sinaloa.
One of the most prominent chroniclers of the drug war, he was gunned down in May 2017. He was 50 years old.
Lopez worked for the ultra-violent Sinaloa cartel, and was convicted last year of trafficking by a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He had been arrested days before the journalist’s murder.
According to the US Department of Justice, Lopez was the deputy head of a Mexican maximum security prison in 2001 when he helped Guzman escape. He then joined the cartel as Guzman’s lieutenant.
He told the jury that another Mexican journalist had mentioned his name in connection with an operation against Guzman’s children — an accusation he said was “totally false.”
To disprove the information he decided to grant Valdez a telephone interview, which Guzman’s children discovered and were against.
They threatened Valdez and commanded him not to published it.
“But he, complying with his ethics, published it anyway,” Lopez said in court.
The witnessed denied in cross-examination that he had ordered the murder after the publication of a critical article about his son.
He also suggested Guzman was unaware of his sons’ involvement in the killing.
“The truth is that maybe my compadre didn’t know,” he said. “But now he knows.”
Nunez, 52, is hoping a judge will reduce his sentence in exchange for his cooperation in the Chapo trial.
Valdez’s murder rocked Mexico, which is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.
More than 100 reporters have been killed since 2000, with most of those crimes going unpunished.