The tortured body of a crime reporter from Mexico's deadliest state for journalists has been found dumped beside a road, prompting a wave of terror among her colleagues.
Anabel Flores Salazar was taken from her home near the city of Orizaba in the southern state of Veracruz in the early hours of Monday morning by a heavily armed commando. The gunmen were reportedly dressed in military uniforms and pointed weapons at family members, while claiming to have a warrant to arrest Flores.
The authorities in the neighboring state of Puebla have now confirmed that her body was found on Tuesday morning beside a road about a 15 minute drive from the border with Veracruz.
She was reportedly found with her hands tied behind her back, a bag over her head, and signs of having been tortured.
Veracruz is considered one of the riskiest places in the world to be a journalist. The risks associated with the presence of organized criminal groups are augmented by the state government's efforts to limit what the media publishes, as well as its tendency to blame reporters if anything happens to them.
Flores, who had two young children, covered the police beat for the local newspaper El Sol de Orizaba. She was known for her reports highlighting the influence of the Zetas in Veracruz. The local authorities have long denied that the cartel has a significant presence in the state.
According to three reporters from the state contacted by VICE News, her abduction and death have triggered a wave of terror within the journalist community.
They said they knew of at least six reporters who had been contacted by people claiming to be members of the Zetas cartel demanding that they "get in line" with the criminal group.
"Basically the message is 'what happened to her could happened to you," said one journalist, who requested that their name not appear in print for obvious security reasons. "Two or three reporters have already resigned from their jobs."
A group of journalists from the central region of the state, called Reporters of Córdoba, released a statement laying the blame for the situation on the state and federal authorities.
"If you don't want us to write about tragedies stop provoking tragedies, and if you don't want to read about violent events stop creating the conditions for those violent events to take place," the statement said. "The media is only a mirror of real life, we don't invent anything, we just note it down."
According to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been killed in direct retaliation for their work in the state since current governor Javier Duarte took office in December 2010. The Committee is also investigating the murder of at least seven other journalists in the same period, as well as the disappearance of a further three.
With the discovery of Flores' body, the Committee highlighted the initial statement released by the Veracruz authorities on the day she was kidnapped. This claimed she had been in the company of an alleged criminal at the time of his arrest in August 2014.
"Veracruz authorities have a history of denigrating the activities of local journalists without providing any concrete evidence," Carlos Lauría, the Committee's program coordinator for the Americas, said in a statement. "We urge authorities to abstain from making unfounded accusations that may further endanger the Veracruz media."
The Veracruz government's allusion to Flores' presence when a former police officer called Víctor Osorio Santacruz was arrested nearly two years ago by the army, was apparently reported at the time by the Excelsior newspaper, though with a very different interpretation.
The paper quoted Osorio's wife accusing the army of disappearing her husband, who she insisted had no links to any cartel. She said the whole scene had been witnessed by "a reporter" — who she did not name — who filmed the allegedly violent arrest. It now appears that this reporter was Flores.
Sandra Luz Salazar, Flores' aunt, told the Committee to Project Journalists that her niece "had been having dinner with her family when the suspected criminal, who was at the same restaurant but not with them, was arrested."
The Committee called on the federal authorities to take over the investigation into Flores' murder, and include her work as a journalist as the possible motive.
Follow Óscar Balderas on Twitter: @oscarbalmen