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Home World News Washington Post World News Guatemalan journalist known for investigations still jailed

Guatemalan journalist known for investigations still jailed

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GUATEMALA CITY — An award-winning Guatemalan journalist incarcerated for alleged money laundering charges denounced by government critics, after a press tactic had previously affected his work.

In 2003, government agents searched José Rubén Zamora Marroquin’s home and threatened his life after he wrote a column suggesting that former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, then president of Congress, ran a parallel government.

Five years later, gunmen kidnapped Zamora in Guatemala’s capital before releasing him outside the city 10 hours later, beaten and drugged. No one was arrested, but at the time it was believed to be a reaction to the work of his newspaper.

Plainclothes detectives and police with rifles arrested Zamora at his home on Friday. His first appearance in front of a judge was canceled on Monday, as the file was apparently unavailable. The hearing was not moved immediately, meaning Zamora would remain in prison.

It also meant that the details of the charges against Zamora remained a mystery. On Friday, government investigators also raided El Periodico’s offices, holding workers in place for more than 15 hours.

Zamora founded El Periodico in 1996 and quickly gained a reputation for exposing government corruption. The newspaper covered the current government of President Alejandro Giammattei and at least three of his predecessors.

Last year and this year, El Periodico published a series of studies on the visit of Russian businessmen to Guatemala who met Giammattei. The newspaper’s investigation accused Giammattei of taking bribes in exchange for a concession of ownership in the port of Santo Tomas de Castilla.

Attorney General Consuelo Porras, who was recently reappointed to another term as the country’s top law enforcement officer by Giammattei, has been sanctioned by the United States for conducting investigations against prosecutors and judges investigating corruption.

On Monday, authorities searched the home of one of those previous targets, former Judge Erika Aifán, who had fled to the United States after denouncing corruption.

Porras Special Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, who is handling Zamora’s case, was also sanctioned by the US government as an alleged obstacle to investigating corruption.

Curruchiche has said the case focuses on Zamora’s work as a businessman and not as a journalist, but has not provided details.

That was hard to reconcile for others at El Periodico, as the government froze the paper’s bank accounts.

“The bank accounts were suspended at the request of the[prosecutor]office, with the sole intention of crippling the finances of the said media outlet, making it impossible to meet its labor and contractual obligations,” said Gerson Ortiz. , news from El Periodico. director.

Zamora’s son, Ramón Zamora, was more direct. “This is not a case against my father, it is a systematic attack on freedom of expression and democracy,” he said. “They started with the activists, moved on to the prosecutors and now they’re starting to chase journalists.”



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