In another sign of increasing political repression in Guatemala, authorities arrested an award-winning journalist who had been critical of the government and raided the offices of the newspaper he founded.
Jose Ruben Zamora, President Newspaper newspaper, at his home in Guatemala City Friday night on charges including money laundering, extortion and influence peddling, according to the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“There must be a conspiracy, persecution,” Zamora told reporters outside his home while in police custody. “If that’s the case, we must pay the price for Guatemala’s love with imprisonment.”
Mr. Zamora’s arrest is the latest move by Guatemalan authorities to stifle political dissent and crush attempts to expose graft in President Alejandro Giamatti’s government, which has become a growing challenge to the Biden administration and its goal of rooting out corruption in Central America.
In May, the State Department announced sanctions against the country’s attorney general, Maria Consuelo Porras, accusing her of involvement in “high corruption” and attempting to obstruct investigations into graft, by firing prosecutors and others.
“During her tenure, Porras has repeatedly obstructed and undermined anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala to protect its political allies and gain undue political support,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
Sanctions seem to have little effect.
Earlier this month, Ms Porras fired eight prosecutors within weeks, according to Human Rights Watch, including Hilda Pineda, who took former President Efraín Ríos Montt to court for crimes including genocide.
In addition to the arrest of Mr. Zamora, authorities have detained the Assistant Attorney General of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity, Samari Carolina Gomez Diaz, for “disclosing classified information”, Rafael Kuroshichi, who leads the Office to Combat Impunity, He said in a video message on Twitter.
Earlier this month, Mr. Curruchiche was placed on the State Department’s list of Central American people accused of “willingly participating in acts that threaten democratic processes or institutions, engaging in significant corruption, or obstructing investigations,” which prevented them from entering the US.
In the video statement, Mr. Karoshishi repeatedly insisted that Mr. Zamora’s arrest “has nothing to do with his work as a journalist”, but rather was related to his “position as a businessman”.
Under the leadership of Mr. Zamora, Newspaper He had reported several allegations of corruption within the Giamatti administration, including within the attorney general’s office, and his sudden arrest was widely criticized by human rights groups.
“This case may be a stepping stone to Guatemala’s freedom of expression guarantees,” Juan Papier, senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in an email. “If this continues like this, there will soon be no one who can expose and curb corruption and abuse of power in the country.”
After Mr. Zamora was arrested, the Guatemalan authorities also raided elPeriodico’s The newspaper reported that offices Friday evening, forcing about 30 employees out of the building, while several others were confined inside offices overnight and their phones were taken away.
The Guatemalan Journalists Association said in a statement that the raid was carried out “to censor the Saturday print edition of the newspaper”. Newspaper. “
“The accusations against Zamora and Newspaper Part of a campaign of persecution, criminalization and censorship, “as stated in the statement, “against the media and journalists who do not breastfeed for the interests of the state authorities.”
Mr. Zamora has been recognized internationally for his work in Guatemala, with honors including the Maria Mores Cabot Award from Columbia University and the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
in a video Posted on social media On Saturday, Mr. Zamora spoke from behind bars, saying he would start a hunger strike to protest his arrest.
“Let me die if necessary,” he said. “But let it be fair.”