Well before his fatal shooting Monday on a Mexican street, journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas acknowledged a fear that had gripped him while covering drug trafficking and other crimes.
"I have never felt safe," Valdez said, in one of several interviews with VOA's Spanish Service over the years. "Now, the feeling of insecurity is much worse. We are in danger in this country, not only to dissent with the government and not just to criticize or protest. … We are in the hands of the narcos, the powerful bad guys inside and outside the government."
Valdez, 50, was shot and killed Monday in broad daylight in Culiacán, a city in the northwestern coastal state of Sinaloa. The Associated Press reported that masked gunmen had dragged him from his red Toyota Camry, firing shots and leaving his body on the street about a block from the office of Ríodoce, the local weekly he launched in 2003.
No arrests have been made, fueling cynicism among beleaguered journalists in a country where at least five other journalists have been slain since early March and at least 40 since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Earlier this month, the New York-based organization released a special report saying that, though the government had appointed a special prosecutor, "a lack of political will to end impunity exposes Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists."
Valdez also was a correspondent for La Jornada in Sinaloa. The state is associated with heavy drug activity, including the cartel run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The drug kingpin is in a New York prison facing trial.
Guzman had managed to escape two maximum-security prisons: first in 2001, when guards smuggled him out of a facility in Jalisco state, and again in 2015, when he tunneled out of Altiplano prison near Mexico City. He was extradited to the United States in January of this year.
"Many Mexicans … agreed with the extradition because they considered that this would help change the situation in Mexico," Valdéz told VOA then. "But this does not happen. Everything remains the same and nothing is going to change."
Valdez spent his journalism career investigating the drug trade, writing about it in news reports, columns and books. In 2011, CPJ presented Valdez with its International Press Freedom Award.
"Poverty and inequality have allowed the narco to nest easily in several regions," Valdéz said. He added that drug trafficking fostered corruption in the political class, which "feeds on narco not only for drugs but financing campaigns and parties. …
"It is a dirty tangle of decomposition, backwardness and violence," the murdered journalist concluded.
VOA's Carol Guensburg contributed to this report.