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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Guatemalan journalist and radio worker found dead with signs of torture



The bodies of a journalist and a publicist were found on Feb. 1 in a cane plantation in Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez, southwest of the Guatemalan capital, according to the public prosecutor.

Laurent Ángel Castillo Cifuentes. Photo: via Facebook

According to the experts report from the public ministry, the bodies of Laurent Ángel Castillo Cifuentes, 28-year-old reporter from newspaper Nuestro Diario in Coatepeque, Quetzaltenango, and Luis Alfredo de León Miranda, 20-year-old working in advertising for Radio Coaltepec, were found with their hands and feet tied, and with bullet wounds to the head, according to Prensa Libre. The public prosecutor also reported that they were strangled.

Abner Guoz, editor of Nuestro Diario, confirmed that Castillo was a reporter for his newspaper and urged the authorities to find those responsible for justice, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Castillo, who also worked for a local cultural magazine, traveled to Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez to cover a carnival event in that city. The reporter was accompanied by his friend Luis de León, with whose help he planned to cover the carnival, reported El País.

Prensa Libre reported that a relative of Castillo's family said the journalist had recently received extortionist phone calls and that for that reason he had changed his mobile phone number. However, El País reported that Castillo's father told local journalists his son never received death threats.

The Human Rights Ombudsman of Guatemala, Jordán Rodas, described the assassination of the communications professionals as a "despicable act.” At the same time that he asked the authorities for a prompt investigation, Rodas demanded the Protocol for the Protection of Journalists be implemented.

UNESCO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also condemned the killings. "We join the pain of their families, of their communities, of the journalistic union and Guatemalan society in general," said both entities.

According to EFE, both entities of the UN joined Rodas’ request that the program of protection for journalists be implemented immediately. The State of Guatemala committed in 2012 to creating a mechanism of protection for communications professionals on recommendations from the Human Rights Councils of the United Nations and of other countries, which were formulated during the last Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) recently spoke against declarations from the former president of Guatemala and current mayor of the country’s capital, Álvaro Arzú, who urged the armed forces “to go over the heads of the negative media” at a recent event. Arzú blamed the press for defaming authorities and the country.

On Jan. 13, deputy Julio Antonio Juárez Ramírez of the ruling party was arrested for being the alleged mastermind of the murder of two journalists in 2015. Danilo Zapón López, from Prensa Libre, and Federico Salazar, from Radio Nuevo Mundo, were shot dead by gunmen in front of the municipality offices in Mazatenango on March 10, 2015.

At least 10 journalists have been killed in the past ten years in Suchitepéquez, a focal point for drug trafficking, AP published.



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