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Image: Andrea Arzaba



COLPIN 2023: Latin America’s Leading Investigative Reporters Showcase Their Work in Mexico City

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At the 2023 Latin American Conference of Investigative Journalism (COLPIN), reporters from diverse backgrounds gathered and shared tools, techniques, technologies, and insider tips of the best investigations published in the past year.

Organized by the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS, for its acronym in Spanish) in collaboration with Mexico’s National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), Article 19, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), this year’s event attracted 450 journalists from more than 25 countries. Running from December 6 – 9, the conference was a melting pot of diverse perspectives, methodologies, and narratives.

Carmen Aristegui Keynote Speaker COLPIN 2023

Investigative Reporter Carmen Aristegui (right) was the keynote speaker at COLPIN 2023. Image: Screenshot, COLPIN

Carmen Aristegui, one of Latin America’s leading investigative journalists, gave the 2023 keynote speech. Some of the issues she addressed were censorship, investigating the elite, and conducting investigations in difficult environments.

One of the highlights of the conference was the announcement of the Javier Valdez Latin American Awards for Investigative Journalism. Valdez, a Mexican journalist known for his investigations on organized crime in the state of Sinaloa, was murdered in 2017. During the award ceremony, his wife spoke to investigative journalists from across the region, encouraging them not to let anyone silence their work.

The jury for these awards included some of the leading names in investigative journalism in the Americas, among them Colombia’s Ignacio Gómez, Mexico’s Alejandra Xanic, Brazil’s Marcelo Moreira, Argentina’s Santiago O’Donnell, and Lise Olsen from the US, who together selected the winning projects from 288 applications.

2023 Colpin Award Winners

Three investigations were chosen for the Javier Valdez Award this year — coming in first, second, and third place.

First Place: Homicides in Ayacucho and Juliaca — IDL Reporteros (Peru)

Killing in Ayacucho - IDL Reporteros

Image: Screenshot, IDL-Reporteros, YouTube

At the end of 2022, as a political crisis hit Peru, thousands of people took to the streets to march. But some of the protests turned violent amid allegations of excessive use of force by security forces. This investigation by IDL-Reporteros was a comprehensive report, digging into six of the 10 deaths that occurred on December 15, 2022, in the southern city of Ayacucho. For this video report, the outlet identified the scenes, locations, and precise moments when the fatal shots were fired during the seven hours in which the protests turned deadly.

“As our colleague Marcela Turati mentioned during COLPIN, investigative journalism is like a truth commission happening in real time… and that is what we want to do with our work,” said IDL-Reporteros’ Rosa Laura while receiving the award. Her colleague César Prado continued: “The institutional chaos we are experiencing [in Peru] puts us in danger of blurring our history again, let us not allow it. Independent journalism is essential at all times.”

Second Place: Venezuelan Prisons — and Connectas (Venezuela)

Prisones Venezolanas Connectas investigation

Image: Screenshot,

This investigation looked into seven Venezuelan prisons governed by pranes (gang leaders), in which the prisoners live very comfortably and enjoy dance clubs, pools, and gyms. These prisons also serve as de facto gang headquarters, from which criminal enterprises, such as drug dealing, illegal mining, and human trafficking, are directed.

The judges said that the investigation “shows the commitment of the reporters in uncovering a criminal organization, with serious risks to their own integrity.” As reporter Ronna Risquez put it: “Venezuelan journalists work in quite complex conditions and yet we continue to believe in democracy, in journalism and in digging up the truth with courage.”

Third Place: Yanomami Genocide — Sumaúma (Brazil)

Sumauma Yanomami Genocide investigation

Image: Screenshot, Sumaúma

In this investigation, the news site Sumaúma found that 570 children of the Yanomami ethnic group in Brazil aged five or younger had died from preventable causes. The report exposed a 30% increase in these deaths when former President Jair Bolsonaro had been in power.

Among their findings, the journalists revealed Indigenous children suffering from acute malnutrition, lack of health infrastructure, and numerous diseases. While illicit mining inside the Yanomami territory was already known, it wasn’t until this investigation that the public could connect this illegal mining to its devastating health impact on the community’s children.

The judges said about the project: “For the first time, Yanomami women spoke of the suffering caused by mining and revealed cases of gang rape, inciting girls to have sexual relations in exchange for food.” Sumaúma reporter Talita Benidelli added when receiving the award: “It is difficult to win an award for coverage of a human rights violation since as a journalist one gets the award, but we know that the population we portray continues to suffer. That is why I dedicate this award to all members of the traditional Yanomami populations.”

Other Finalists for the 2023 Javier Valdez Awards

Rosario, Narco Fiefdom – La Nación (Argentina)

Bolsonaro’s Jewels – O Estado de Sao Paulo (Brazil)

Naming the Cows – Repórter Brasil (Brazil)

Unlimited Partying – Revista Piauí (Brazil)

Blood Contracts in Social Security – El Universo (Ecuador)

The Godfather – La Posta Ecuador (Ecuador)

PRI’s Secrets in Andorra – El País (Spain)

Following the Money – Border Hub/Texas Observer (United States)

A Drug Dealer’s Sacred Mountain – Contracorriente (Honduras)

The Fortune of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – ABC Color (Paraguay)

Quirino Ordaz’s Hotelier Cousin – El Universal (México)

Minister Yasmín Esquivel Plagiarized Her Doctoral Thesis – El País (México)


Andrea ArzabaAndrea Arzaba is a journalist and GIJN’s Spanish Editor. As a reporter and media professional, she has focused on documenting the stories of people in Latin America and Latinx communities in the US. She is an International Women’s Media Foundation fellow and part of Transparency International’s Young Journalists Program.

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