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    Paraguayan journalist wins first Bajo la Lupa investigative reporting grant; Mexican journalist named runner-up

    Laura Sanchez Ley
    Laura Sanchez Ley
    Aldo Benitez
    Aldo Benitez

    InquireFirst is excited to announce that Paraguayan journalist Aldo Benitez has been awarded our first investigative reporting grant for an environmental project which he will produce as part of our Bajo la Lupa initiative to support investigative journalism by Latin American journalists.

    Our international panel of judges also selected a project proposed by Mexican investigative journalist Laura Sanchez Ley as the runner-up in this first call for proposals.

    The judges said both proposals “address matters of great public interest, which in one way or another directly impact people’s lives.”

    “They are clear research projects, with specific and relevant complaints, from which it can be inferred that the justice system has fallen short in the countries where the stories take place,” the judges wrote. “The informative value of the investigations, their possible transnational impact and the environment in which they take place make it necessary to provide all the support and collaboration possible to help these projects come to fruition.”

    Both Benitez and Sanchez Ley will receive reporting grants under the Bajo la Lupa iniciative. Their projects will be published in early 2021.

    Benitez, who is the deputy Sunday editor at La Nacion in Paraguay, was hooked on journalism at the age of 19 when he attended a weekly “Young Journalists” program at the prestigious national newspaper in Asuncion, ABC Color.  He worked at ABC Color for more than a decade, covering the economy and sports.  But he said his real interest lay in covering “the rivers, the forests, what was happening with the environment.”

    Since joining La Nacion in 2016, he has focused on investigative reporting and more recently has found ways to merge investigative and environmental reporting. For the past two years he has collaborated with Mongabay LatAm, an online new site focused on conversation and the environment.

    Sanchez Ley is a reporter and editor based in Mexico City whose work focuses on government accountability, public policies and access to information. She has 16 years of experience writing and reporting across a variety of platforms, including print, television and online media.

    Sanchez Ley was formerly based in the Tijuana – San Diego border region, covering crime, corruption and binational affairs such as immigration, justice, and cross-border policies. Her Bajo la Lupa project focuses on one of the least accountable and most opaque agencies in the Mexican government.

    In response to the call for proposals, Bajo la Lupa received numerous investigative project ideas from journalists in Mexico, Guatemala and South America. The panel of judges said that each of the proposals demonstrated the experience and knowledge of the Latin American journalists who participated. 

    The judges singled out Benitez’s proposal, saying it “has great narrative potential, as well as the possibility to expose environmental damage that has been going on for far too long with impunity.”

     “These qualities made this project the winner,” the judges said.

    Of Sanchez Ley’s proposal, the judges said her “powerful initial reporting based out of Mexico led us to consider the project for the support of InquireFirst as well.”

    Alejandra Gutiérrez Valdizán, a prominent reporter and editor with experience in written, audiovisual and digital journalism, will serve as project editor. She has focused her career on in-depth and narrative journalism, specializing in issues of human rights, transitional justice, the environment, and security and violence.

    Her work, individually or as a team, has been a finalist for the Daniel Pearl Awards (2013), the Gabriel García Márquez Prize of the FNPI (2014), and the Inter-American Press Society (2013/2014). She has been a university professor, teaching investigative journalism courses and instructing workshops and trainings on communication, journalism and editorial and digital media management.

    In December 2017, she co-founded Agencia Ocote in Guatemala, where she is the director. At Agencia Ocote she designs, coordinates and edits the journalistic projects of Agencia Ocote and manages the communication, investigation and editorial services of the Servicios Ocote company.

    Bajo la Lupa is funded by Anthony S. Da Vigo, a California attorney who has successfully argued immigration cases of Latin American asylum seekers. Most recently, he funded the completion of a water project in Nicaragua, providing well water distribution to a church, a school and 65 homes.

    This new initiative, launched in June 2020, supports in-depth and original reporting by Latin American journalists to expose corruption and abuses of power. The objective of Bajo la Lupa is to encourage investigative journalism that reveals hidden actions by the powerful that affect the citizens of Latin America with the goal of promoting transparency and rule of law.


    TEAM LEADERS

    Alejandra Gutiérrez Valdizán
    Editor

    Alejandra Gutiérrez Valdizán is a reporter and editor with experience in written, audiovisual and digital journalism. She has focused her career on in-depth and narrative journalism, specializing in issues of human rights, transitional justice, the environment, and security and violence.

    Ignacio Rodriguez Reyna
    Editor

    Ignacio Rodríguez Reyna is a Mexican journalist, reporter, editor and media director.

    He has worked as a reporter at El Financiero and the newspaper Reforma. He has been editor-in-chief of the magazine Milenio Semanal, editorial director of the newspaper El Universal,

    S. Lynne Walker
    Project Coordinator

    S. Lynne Walker is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who spent much of her career reporting from Mexico, where she served as Mexico City Bureau Chief from 1992 to 2008 for San Diego, Calif.-based Copley News Service.


    Judges

    Ginger Thompson

    Ginger Thompson is chief of correspondents at ProPublica. A Pulitzer Prize winner, she previously spent 15 years at The New York Times as the Mexico City bureau chief and as an investigative reporter. Her work has exposed the consequences of Washington’s policies in Latin America, particularly policies involving immigration, political upheaval and the fight against drug cartels.

    Ronny Rojas

    Ronny Rojas is a Costa Rican journalist and adjunct professor at the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York (CUNY) as well as a collaborator with the Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística (CLIP). Previously, he was head of the Data Unit of Univision Noticias Digital in Miami and in 2018-19 he was a Fellow of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship Program at Stanford University.

    Luis Trelles

    Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Luis is a Senior Editor with Latino USA, a radio show and podcast of National Public Radio (NPR). He was previously an editor and producer with the Spanish-language narrative journalism podcast Radio Ambulante, where he reported on and told stories from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among other places.


    Founding Donor

    Anthony-S-Da-Vigo

    Anthony S. Da Vigo

    InquireFirst’s Bajo la Lupa Project was founded through a generous contribution by Anthony S. Da Vigo, a California attorney who is committed to improving the lives of Latin Americans. 

    He has been recognized for providing pro bono legal services for the Refugee Asylum Panel of Sacramento County, and for accepting, investigating and winning the case of an El Salvadoran applicant marked for assassination by death squads.

    Most recently, he funded the completion a water project in Nicaragua, providing well water distribution to a church, a school, and 65 homes.

    Anthony invites you to join him in supporting this important investigative journalism project in Latin America.