Muck-raking Guatemalan journalist says arrest won’t silence him
By Jose Carlos Movil
Guatemala City, Aug 2 (EFE).- After surviving a grenade attack, an abduction and multiple episodes of official harassment, Guatemalan journalist Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin finds himself behind bars on the orders of a prosecutor labeled corrupt by the United States.
Tuesday marked a fifth day in custody for Zamora, who 14 months ago accepted from King Felipe VI a King of Spain International Journalism Prize on behalf of his newspaper, El Periodico.
Zamora, then editor of Siglo Veintiuno newspaper, was dining at a Guatemala City restaurant in May 1996 when assailants hurled grenades in his direction.
By 2003, he had founded El Periodico, whose reporting so irked President Alfonso Portillo’s government that military intelligence showed up at the Zamora home to carry out a warrantless search.
Five years later, operatives linked to the government kidnapped Zamora and held him hostage for 15 hours.
Zamora’s latest ordeal began on July 29, just days after El Periodico launched a broadside at President Alejandro Giammattei and members of his inner circle.
And the authorities are also going after the newspaper, freezing El Periodico’s bank accounts on Monday at the behest of the prosecutor behind Zamora’s arrest, Rafael Curruchiche, recently barred from entering the US on allegations he fabricated criminal cases against anti-corruption whistle-blowers.
The prosecutor claims that Zamora is accused of blackmail, influence-peddling and money laundering, though he has declined to disclose any details to the public or to the journalist’s lawyer.
“He is arrested as a businessman, not as a journalist,” Curruchiche said.
Zamora said publicly last year that Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras would seek to frame him for some crime as retaliation for El Periodico’s scrutiny of the government.
When security forces came to his home last Friday, they decided to enter from the roof.
“They were already in the kitchen by the time we noticed,” he said Tuesday. “My grandchildren, ages 13 and 9, and my daughter Maria Jose were gripped by a panic attack.”
Zamora’s daughter-in-law began filming and the prosecutor directing the search “lost control and threatened to arrest my daughter and he took her cell-phone, her passport and those of the children,” the prisoner recounted.
Nearly five hours after the police broke in, the prosecutor told Zamora he had a warrant for his arrest.
Despite his current predicament, Zamora and the staff of El Periodico are not ready to give up.
“We won’t be silent,” they said in a statement following the editor’s arrest. EFE jcm/dr