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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Guatemalan congressman arrested, accused of being mastermind behind murder of two journalists in 2015



After being investigated by authorities for several months, and recently stripped of his parliamentary immunity, a Guatemalan congressman aligned with the ruling party was arrested for allegedly being the intellectual author of the 2015 murders of Danilo Zapón López, journalist of Prensa Libre, and Federico Salazar, journalist at Radio Nuevo Mundo.

Julio Antonio Juárez Ramírez (Congreso de la República de Guatemala)

The Public Prosecutor's Office (MP, for its initial sin Spanish), through the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI), in coordination with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), had been investigating Deputy Julio Juárez Ramírez for more than a year. He is accused of murder, attempted murder and illicit association, according to the MP.

Cicig said Juárez Ramírez –who was captured near his home on Jan. 13, 2018 in Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez– allegedly ordered the murder of Zapón López after learning that the journalist was investigating alleged acts of corruption committed by the Government of the Municipality of Santo Tomás La Unión, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Juárez Ramírez was mayor of the municipality.

Journalist Federico Salazar, who was with Zapón López at the time of the attack on March 10, 2015, also died. Both were shot by hitmen, in broad daylight, in a central park in front of a government building in Suchitepéquez.

Days before his death, Zapón López published an article on news site El Sur about the congressman’s debts with the Superintendency of Tax Administration (SAT) of Guatemala.

In preliminary investigations into Juárez Ramírez, it was determined that the mayor saw Zapón López "as a threat to the consolidation of his candidacy as a district deputy and a questioning of his power in the area," according to CICIG.

In October 2017, Sergio Waldemar Cardona Reyes, who carried out the murder of Zapón López, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

And in November 2017, the Supreme Court took away Juárez’s immunity, as reported by Prensa Libre.

"The arrest of the alleged mastermind is a significant step toward justice for Danilo López and Federico Salazar,” said CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney, according to an organization release. “We hope Guatemalan authorities will pursue all those responsible, and break the cycle of impunity with this case."

 



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