Paraguay seeks clues in slaying of journalist in border city

Sep 7, 2022, 3:40 AM | Updated: 4:04 pm

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Paraguayan investigators searched for clues Wednesday in the killing of a journalist in the northern end of the country, while prosecutors disputed accusations that law enforcement officials failed to protect the victim.

Humberto Coronel, 33, a journalist in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, around 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of the capital of Asunción, was shot eight times Tuesday by a man on a motorcycle as he left Amambay Radio, where he worked.

The attacker was a “hit man,” said a statement from Paraguay’s Office of the Attorney General.

Coronel had said in June that he and fellow journalist Gustavo Báez received a death threat in a note that was written in a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese that claimed they knew “too many things.”

The threat came less than a month after José Carlos Acevedo, the city’s mayor whose family owned the radio station where Coronel worked, was killed by a hit man in broad daylight.

Pedro Juan Caballero, which is on the border with Brazil, is one of the most dangerous cities in Paraguay, in large part due to the drug traffickingbetween the two South American countries.

The Union of Paraguayan Journalists and the Paraguay Human Rights Coordinator issued a joint statement blaming “the inaction of the state” for the slaying.

The crime “constitutes a new attack against freedom of expression and clearly shows how organized crime is taking over all of Paraguayan society,” the statement said.

The prosecutor in charge of investigating the killing, Katia Uemura, pushed back against the accusation, saying Coronel had refused protection from authorities after the threat.

Despite rejecting a personal security detail, two police officers were posted outside Amambay Radio and told to patrol that block, she said. At the time of the shooting, they were around 100 meters (328 feet) away, Uemura said.

“I wouldn’t attribute to the police, and much less to the prosecutors, the responsibility (for the killing), because a person who has been threatened must protect themselves,” Uemura said in an interview with a local radio station.

Hours after Coronel was killed, Amambay Radio received threatening messages through its Facebook page warning that “many more will cry,” the station said.

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Paraguay seeks clues in slaying of journalist in border city