Corps member spotlight: Violeta Santiago – Quinto Elemento Lab

By Letícia Duarte and Nathan Tisdale

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges for Mexico, as a tradition of opaque governments and the influence of organized crime influence not just the public sector, but all layers of society.

Mexico ranked 126 among 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, with 44 percent of its citizens reporting that they believed corruption had increased in the previous year and 34 percent of users of public services admitting to paying a bribe in the same period.

In this environment, the work of investigative reporters is key to fill the gap left by watchdog agencies and expose the wrongdoings of elected officials, companies and individuals. Our host newsroom Quinto Elemento Lab is at the forefront of these investigations, providing a unique space to develop long and deep investigations that have clear impact.

We spoke recently with Violeta Santiago, our corps member in Quinto Elemento on the occasion of the publication of an investigation of the dealings of Sitravem, a company responsible for providing maintenance to elevators in public hospitals. When a six-year-old girl died in a hospital elevator serviced by the company and the authorities couldn’t find anyone who would offer an explanation , Santiago and her colleagues started to dig and found that Sitravem had won the contracts for those services by competing against companies owned by the same group, in violation of Mexican law.

As Santiago explains, their reporting showed that some of those companies were entirely made up.

The kinds of investigations are possible only at newsrooms committed to long-term journalism, with the resources and skills to uncover wrongdoings. Santiago explained what makes Quinto Elemento special in the context of Mexican media and how they support her work.

Becoming an investigative journalist is a process that takes years. Santiago shared her trajectory and how each of her previous professional experiences has served as a stepping stone to her current role