Mexico's press corps has had a shaky start to the new year with the murders of two journalists who had dared to describe their country's slippage into drug- and corruption-driven violence.
Margarito Martínez Esquivel, a crime reporter and photographer who often collaborated with members of foreign media, was shot and killed outside her home in the northern city of Tijuana on Monday lunchtime.
"Unfortunately, I could not do anything for him," his despairing wife, Elena Martinez, told the San Diego Union-Tribune - one of the numerous international outlets the journalist had worked for, including the BBC, Los Angeles Times and Washington. Post.
Martínez's death came a week after another journalist, José Luis Gamboa, was stabbed to death in the eastern state of Veracruz, another of Mexico's most violent regions.
Two days earlier Gamboa, the director of a news site called Inforegio, used Twitter to call for the appointment of an anti-drug tsar who could curb the decades-long escalation of bloodshed. Last year he apologized how parts of the government instead of fighting drug trafficking had been sucked into "a large criminal association" with the cartels. "The Mexican people still do not understand how serious this is," Gamboa tweeted.
The two as yet unexplained killings - which follow the killing of nine journalists last year - sparked outrage and grief in the Latin American country, which is considered the world's most dangerous country for journalists outside war zones.
In some regions, journalists have become so afraid of being abducted and killed that they take DIY toothprints and leave them in the freezer at home before going out to report so relatives can identify their remains.
"It's shocking to have this happen so early in the year and to have one murder happen so soon after another," said Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico's representative on the Committee on the Protection of Journalists.
The Tijuana-based press collective Yo Sí Soy Periodista (Yes, I'm a journalist) demanded a quick investigation into the murder of Martínez, who spent more than two decades documenting the border town's security crisis and working for the weekly newspaper Zeta.
The group said Martínez was the 29th Mexican journalist killed since Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took power in December 2018 and promised to pacify the country.
Wendy Fry, who reports on Tijuana for the San Diego Union-Tribune and knew Martínez, remembered a diligent and kind colleague who was almost always the first to arrive on stage for a story.
"It's a risky thing to be a journalist in TJ, and he just had a great pride in doing so ... He worked tirelessly: day, night, afternoon," said Fry, one of the shocked journalists, who gathered outside the photographer's house on Monday. .
As news of Martínez's killings spread, the Facebook page, where he livestreamed murder scenes to tens of thousands of followers, was flooded with messages from co-workers and politicians.
"I feel crushed. I can not believe Margarito Martínez is gone… they murdered him cold-blooded," wrote a friend, Gabriela Díaz.
Another journalist friend, Manuel Ayala, tweeted: “The name of Margarito Martínez has been printed this afternoon in all Tijuana newsrooms with tears and blood. We will never forget, because on this day, they shot every single member of our community through the chest. ”
Michael Robinson Chávez, a Pulitzer-winning photographer for the Washington Post, called him "a true professional, brave and tenacious.
"He will be missed," Chávez said tweeted.
Hootsen said the seemingly endless wave of journalist killings was driven by government inaction and impunity.
"What it boils down to is that in Mexico, if you want to hurt a journalist, you can do it, and there is a very small chance that you will be caught - and an even smaller chance that you will be sentenced to prison. ," he said. "The Mexican government makes it in a way easy for people who want to hurt journalists."