TIJUANA (Border Report) — Mexico’s President Manuel López Obrador is telling reporters and the public not to link former Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla to Sunday night’s murder of journalist Lourdes Maldonado.
Maldonado is the second journalist killed in Tijuana in less than a week.
She had a weekly online show about politics and crime in the region and had worked for several news outlets around Tijuana including a television and radio station owned by Bonilla.
Nine years ago, she filed a complaint with a labor board accusing Bonilla of not paying her and other journalists who were working for a media company Bonilla owned before he was governor.
Later, Maldonado reported she had gotten threats in connection with her claims.
Then in 2019, she attended a news conference in Mexico City with López Obrador and told him she felt “her life was in danger.”
She also asked that Bonilla be forced to pay her, “I’m here asking for your support… asking for justice,” she told López Obrador, commonly referred to as AMLO.
Bonilla has been quoted as saying he’d “rather liquidate all his assets than give her any money.”
But last week, a ruling came down in favor of Maldonado and Bonilla and his company were ordered to pay her $20,000.
Four days later, she was killed.
Maldonado had gotten in her parked car outside her house when her assailant approached and shot her several times.
This happened in spite of being part of a federal program that is supposed to protect journalists who have received threats.
“We know she had a panic button installed in her home and had direct contact with public safety in Tijuana,” said Baja California Prosecutor Ricardo Carpio.
Early reports indicate a patrol car and officers assigned to protect Maldonado left the area minutes before she was killed.
“Unfortunately, the safety mechanisms in place were not enough to prevent the loss of life,” Carpio said.
Late Monday, Bonilla finally spoke about speculation he was behind Maldonado’s killing.
“I have nothing against her,” he told reporter Joaquín López-Dóriga Velandia during a radio interview on Radio Fórmula. “I knew her, not that close, she was a contributor at some point in my firm, but I had not dealt with her for many years. One time she went to see me when I was already governor and we dealt with various themes she was working on.”
Bonilla also told López-Dóriga that he was with his son and daughter-in-law when he found out about Maldonado’s death.
“I’m very sorry about this, of course, we all feel the loss. This is a difficult situation here in Tijuana, the last week with two murdered journalists. I’ve always been a person with absolute respect for journalists,” Bonilla said. “Back then she had complaints against our company, but it never went beyond that.”
During his conversation with López-Dóriga, Bonilla insisted he was innocent and said he welcomed the scrutiny and was open to speak with investigators.
“I’m in my office every day, they can come talk to me any time,” Bonilla said.
Another Tijuana journalist, photographer Margarito Martínez, was gunned down outside his home on Jan. 17.