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Alone, 'Riodoce' Covers the Mexican Drug Cartel Beat

Alone, one small paper in Mexico covers the drug wars
A bus drives by a house in Culiacán pocked with bullet holes
A bus drives by a house in Culiacán pocked with bullet holesPhotograph by Jared Moossy for Bloomberg Businessweek

Early on Aug. 29, 2010, Ismael Bojórquez, editor of the newsweekly Riodoce, in the Mexican city of Culiacán, learned that a man in his 20s had been found dead of bullet wounds in a white Lamborghini. Murders of young men are common in Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa and the seat of power of the cartel of the same name, but this one was different. The victim, Bojórquez heard, was the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa cartel and the most powerful drug kingpin in Mexico. Two and a half years earlier, when another of El Chapo’s sons was gunned down by the rival Beltrán Leyva cartel, it ignited a bloody war—387 people were killed in Culiacán in three months. In a way, El Chapo (Spanish for “Shorty”; Guzmán is 5’6”) and his empire are the main subjects of Riodoce, one of the only periodicals in Mexico that seriously investigates drug violence.

Bojórquez, a compact man with a thin moustache and a broad, angular face, immediately drove to the crime scene. It was on a street called Presa Azúcar, in a residential part of town. To his surprise, there was no body, and no car—only some blood on the asphalt, scattered shards of broken glass, and pieces of a car bumper. He took a few pictures and went to a police post about 200 meters down the street, but the officers there said they didn’t know anything and referred him to the district police commander. When Bojórquez called on him, the commander said he couldn’t talk about it. The state’s attorney’s office, too, said nothing. “Officially, nothing occurred,” Bojórquez recalls. “Officially, he wasn’t even dead.”