Manuel Buendia left a momentous legacy in journalism through his column Private network, where he uncovered corruption networks, criticized the Mexican political system, denounced social problems and other issues that bothered the upper echelons of power in Mexico. His murder May 30, 1984, considered a state crime, remains a mystery, which unravels Netflix in his new documentary film.
That day in 1984, the journalist was killed by a man when he left his office, at the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Insurgentes in Mexico City; the man approached Good morning and He fired five shots in the back. The journalist’s tragic death uncovered mysteries, corruption and scapegoats.
.The man who shot Buendía was Rafael Moro Avila, agent of the Directorate Federal Security (DFS), “who supposedly was following orders from his top boss: José Antonio Zorrilla Pérez, whom Buendía was investigating for ties to drug trafficking“, as stated in the text Murder of Manuel Buendía Téllez G. Most influential critical journalist in the middle of the 20th century.
Why was Manuel Buendía murdered?
This is where I come in Private Network: Who killed Manuel Buendía?, a documentary directed by Manuel Alcala that portrays a journalist who despite his great power and popularity was shamelessly murdered in broad daylight in Mexico in the 80s.
Alcalá began to delve into this story a decade ago, when he was writing the script for the film. Museum and found a headline from 1989 that said “Guilty fox”, in reference to the former director of the DFS José Antonio Zorrilla Pérez, accused of the death.
“I did not know the case at all”Alcalá said in an interview about the premiere of the documentary this Wednesday on Netflix. “It was a chain that did not stop, and above all I was hooked with the investigation.”
The enemies of Buendía
Actually, Buendía had many probable enemies when he was assassinated in May 1984: Mexican and US authorities, as well as members of organized crime whom he equally denounced in his column Private network. Alcalá sought to fully immerse himself in the character and its context while he used his own columns to draw it.
“You read their columns and they are great. He said that journalism is a literary genre just like any other, “said Alcalá. “He was a great writer, he had black humor. The structure of the spine was suddenly a joke or revealed something to you”.
Buendía died being critical and open in his remarks. But, as can be seen in the documentary, he also worked for the government at the time of the Halconazo, the deadly repression against a student demonstration that occurred on June 10, 1971.
“It is not this saint that is drawn suddenly,” said Alcalá. “In other circles he was also a devil.”
‘Private network’ returns to light the case of Manuel Buendía
Private network includes interviews with multiple journalists recognized as Carmen Aristegui, Sergio Aguayo, Elena Poniatowska and the late Virgilio Caballero. The actor Daniel Gimenez Cacho does voice-over reading of Buendía’s columns.
Although Buendía’s murder was not the first of a Mexican journalist in the 20th century, it did cause a great impact at the time because of the way it happened and because he was such a well-known journalist.
Since then, violence against journalists has only increased in the country: between 2000 and 2020, 159 journalists and media workers have been murdered in Mexico, according to figures from the National Human Rights Commission.
While in June of this year, Mexico had a week in which three journalists were murdered: Gustavo Sanchez Cabrera in Oaxaca; Felipe Enrique Garcia Garcia, in the State of Mexico; Y Saúl Tijerina Renteria in Coahuila. According to organizations such as the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ, for its acronym in English) and Reporters Without Borders, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism in the world.
Alcalá said that, according to his research for the documentary, 300 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since Buendía’s death and the vast majority of cases remain unpunished.
“The reason it continues to happen is because we do not know anything about these 300 journalists, sometimes not their names, and also 99 percent of those cases remain unsolved,” he said.