Veteran journalists who covered wars in Central America die in Mexico

Josetxo Zaldua frente a su casa en Managua. Photo: Cortesía tomada de Facebook.
By Alberto Barrera

Mexico – Two veteran journalists: Josetxo Zaldua from the newspaper La Jornada and Roberto Pineda, cameraman for the American network CBS who covered the bloody conflicts in Central America in the decade of 1980 they passed away on Tuesday 28 September in Mexico, reported relatives and colleagues of both.

Josetxo Zaldua, General Editing Coordinator of the newspaper La Jornada died after suffering from cancer in Mexico City. In the early years of the 80 He was a correspondent in Nicaragua and visited El Salvador many times.

Josetxo Zaldua in writing of La Jornada. Photo: Courtesy.

Zaldua arrived in Mexico at the end of the decade of 1970 and joined the newspaper One plus one as editor of Economics, but after the murder in San Salvador of the correspondent Ignacio Rodríguez in August 1980 was appointed correspondent in Managua. Before that, he was a photographer and reporter for the Diario de Navarra, in his native Basque country, the admired journalist said in a note at the conference, Blanche Petrich.

One of his nephews Beñat Zaldua wrote on the site that Josetxo was born in Elizondo, He was a photographer for ‘Egin’ and “took refuge in Ipar Euskal Herria after being accused of belonging to ETA. In the 80 made the leap to Mexico, donde desarrolló su carrera periodística”.

He was a member of the founding team in 1984 of The Day, correspondent in Nicaragua, international affairs reporter and finally editor. "From that trench he was the teacher of a generation of reporters and photographers who were trained in the day laborer school in recent decades", said Petrich.

Although a carcinogenic process was detected during the hard months of the COVID-19 pandemic, "it remained at the foot of the canyon until its last strength", he added.

“At Unomásuno Zaldua made a commitment to the group of journalists led by Carlos Payán and Carmen Lira, among others, to form The Day. He remained covering crucial years in Nicaraguan history until shortly after Daniel Ortega's electoral defeat in 1990. ", said Petrich.

After returning to Mexico he covered news events in Haiti, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, The Savior, Guatemala, Cuba and Peru. Then he moved to Caracas, where he was also a correspondent.

Josetxo Zaldua had just completed 70 years. He is survived by his wife Sandra García and daughter Amaia Zaldua García.

With Josetxo Zaldua leaves a journalist of race who toured Latin America during the turbulent years 80 and the early 90s… ”He made journalists, forged them. Many enjoyed it and some, probably, they suffered it "; said his nephew Beñat on Wednesday.

Added: "With Josetxo Zaldua a Basque militant also leaves. Photographer of a newly born ‘Egin’, in 1978 had to go into hiding after being identified as responsible for a failed action by ETA. A bizarre escape, worthy of those years and its protagonist, with change of clothes in a confessional included, He ended up taking him to Iparralde ", and from there he flew to Mexico.

"He paid more than exile. They were three decades without being able to return home, unable to say goodbye to his father. Years of summer suitcases and slip-smuggling of Malkorra from shore to shore of the Atlantic. He swore that the same would not happen to his mother and returned ", wrote his nephew.

"With Josetxo Zaldua there are also several clandestine lives that we will never know", he added. Although in those early years of the 80 in San Salvador he once alluded to his work in secret.

“I don't know how many lives Josetxo lived, sure more than seven. In some he suffered, definitely, but I'm sure he enjoyed all of them ", added Beñat.

Roberto Pineda in the foreground carrying the body of the American photojournalist John Hoagland, mortally wounded on the road to Suchitoto, March of 1983. Photo: Courtesy

On Tuesday Roberto Pineda also died of lung cancer, a seasoned cameraman in those difficult years of the bloody wars in the area and became an expert together with his colleague surveyor, Jaime Robles, also mexican, ambos unidos por un cordón que unía la pesada cámara a la enorme caja grabadora del audio y la cinta con las imágenes.

Both commissioned their equipment to other colleagues and assistants to carry the body of American photographer John Hoagland, mortally wounded, de un charral a la orilla de la carretera a Suchitoto el 16 March 1984 in the middle of a tough fight between soldiers and guerrillas.

Roberto Pineda, San Salvador 1989. Foto cortesía de Wesley Boce Facebook.

Pineda, of 74 years, murió en Puerto Vallarta, México víctima también de un proceso cancerígeno.

No hace mucho, entre marzo y abril de 2013, volvió a El Salvador y nos reunimos en un restaurante bar y conversamos junto a la amiga de ambos, Gertrudis “Tulita” Flores, ex empleada de la Casa Presidencial en aquellos años de los 80.

We talk about hedges that we did, of probable television projects and other ideas, that were not possible. He stayed for some time at Tulita's house and suddenly he left. He was very dedicated to alcoholic drink and we did not know that he was sick, probably so it has been, but he didn't say anything.

He was talkative, joker and easy smile, not so scandalous, but he knew how to enjoy even though he suffered a lot from conflicts.

On the Journalist Vets of Central America Facebook page (Veteran Journalists in Central America) many reacted to the passing of both colleagues.

Pablo Iacub, who works for the CNN network in Spanish, said when referring to the death of Josetxo: “A friend, a brother, In good and bad. You got ahead of us. Those of us who know and love you mourn your departure. But you left in peace, quiet, satisfied with the experience. Descansa en paz querido Josetxo”.

“Fue un volcán. Fue mexicano, Nicaraguan, cubano, lo que se le dio la gana. Pero nació en Elizondo, en el hermoso valle del Baztán navarro. Mi hermano. Mi guía en el periodismo. Mi jefe”, reaccionó Blanche Petrich.

Mientras que otro experimentado fotoperiodista Bill Gentile dijo que fue una “noticia terrible. Condolencias a su esposa, Sandra Garcia, quien estaba con Josetxo hasta el último momento.”

“Realmente terrible. Es una gran pérdida para todos”, dijo el estadounidense Scott Wallace quien se unió también al pesar por la partida de Pineda.

Y Jaime Robles compañero de Roberto durante muchos años escribió: “Que en paz descanse…..los años que trabaje con él, fueron de enseñanza, tanto profesional como personal“.

Descansen en paz ambos colegas periodistas que dejaron su huella en El Salvador y Centroamérica a su paso en coberturas de guerra en la década de 1980.