|YouTuber ‘Nana Pelucas’|
MEXICO CITY — Prosecutors in southern Mexico said Tuesday they have arrested an alleged lieutenant of a drug gang for the 2018 murder of a YouTube commentator in Acapulco. The Guerrero state prosecutors office said the suspect had once been the second in command of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco.
The office identified the man only by his first names, Edgar Saúl, in keeping with anti-incrimination rules. The victim, Leslie Ann Pamela Montenegro, was known by her YouTube persona as “Nana Pelucas.”
Before her death, she had been threatened by a drug gang over her YouTube channel and its commentary on local events in the resort city. She was shot to death by men who walked into a restaurant she ran near Acapulco’s tourist zone. Montenegro used a big wig and glasses to deliver chatty, comic commentary and criticisms, some concerning the local government.
Background from Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Two unidentified assailants on February 5, 2018 shot dead Pamela Montenegro, a journalist, satirist and social media commentator who was also known as Pamika, in the beachside resort city of Acapulco, according to news reports.
The attack took place between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in A Todos los Santos, a restaurant that Montenegro owned with her husband. According to a statement given that same day by Roberto Álvarez Heredia, a spokesperson for the Guerrero state attorney general’s office, two unidentified attackers entered the restaurant and immediately approached Montenegro, who was sitting with her husband. The assailants fired at least two shots at Montenegro’s face and abdomen, before fleeing, according to the statement and initial police report to which CPJ had access. The report did not say whether the attackers said anything to Montenegro before shooting.
The 36-year-old journalist ran a satirical YouTube channel and an online news magazine called El Sillón, which she founded in 2012. She was more widely known as “La Nana Pelucas” (The Grandma in Wigs), her online persona featured on her satirical YouTube channel, El Sillón TV. Both as editor of El Sillón and as “La Nana Pelucas,” Montenegro covered local politics in Acapulco and the Guerrero region, and frequently mocked local politicians. El Sillón‘s Facebook page, which Montenegro administered with her husband, Samuel Muñuzuri, featured a variety of posts in the months before her death, including on topics such as beauty, culture, and politics.
According to a February 6, 2018 statement from the Guerrero state attorney general Javier Olea, Montenegro had received threats in the months before her murder. He said that her publications had put her “in the view” of a local official. The statement did not specify the name of the official or which of Montenegro’s publications it was referring to. Olea did not elaborate on the nature of the threats Montenegro received.
CPJ was unable to find any recent stories on El Sillón, Montenegro’s El Sillón Facebook page or videos on her YouTube channel that met Olea’s description. Her recent publications on El Sillón’s Facebook page included several critical posts about Acapulco mayor Evodio Velázquez and posts in support of candidates running for office in the July 2018 elections, but no reports on organized crime in Acapulco or its surrounding area.
Several phone calls by CPJ in February, March, and April to the office of Velázquez remained unanswered.
Olea said that that Javi Daniel Cervantes Magno, the alleged leader of a local criminal gang that is active in Acapulco, ordered Montenegro’s murder, according to the February 6 statement. A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office told CPJ on February 8 that he was unable to confirm that a warrant had been issued for Magno’s arrest and did not return calls requesting further comment.
CPJ could not locate Cervantes Magno for comment.
José Antonio Rivera, a journalist from the region, told CPJ in a telephone conversation on February 7, 2018, that Montenegro “was well known for being very critical of local politicians.” Rivera added that she had “a very sharp tongue.”
Montenegro and her husband, Samuel Muñuzuri, had been threatened previously by criminal gangs. On December 4, 2016, a series of “narcomantas,” (banners carrying messages attributed to organized crime) were placed around Acapulco, containing threats aimed at several people, including Montenegro and Muñuzuri, a multimedia producer, according to news reports.
The banners mentioned a Facebook page named “Denuncias Acapulco Sin Sencura,” on which citizens could report crime, violence, corruption, and abuse of power by the authorities. The banner claimed Montenegro was one of the page’s administrators. In his February 6 statement to local media, Guerrero state attorney general Javier Olea confirmed that Montenegro ran the Facebook page, which last ran posts in October 2017.
Miguel Ángel Mata Mata, the president of the Journalists’ Club of Guerrero, criticized Olea’s statement. “I think those comments were rushed,” he told CPJ, although he did not elaborate on why he believed the comments were rushed.
Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, who heads the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) told CPJ that his office, as of February 7, 2018, had not yet opened a federal investigation into the killing.
On August 28, 2018, local media in Acapulco reported that a suspect in the murder of Montenegro has been arrested one day earlier in a hotel located on the city’s coastal boulevard. According to the reports, citing unspecified law enforcement sources, the suspect was nicknamed “El Rusito” (“The Little Russian”) and has been involved in a series of violent crimes in the city. No official statement on the arrest has been released. CPJ called the state attorney general’s office for comment in early December 2018 and left a message, but did not receive a response.