Guatemala: Investigation of secret government agency prompts death threats

May 19, 2000

Adolfo González Rodas
Attorney General
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Dear Mr. González Rodas,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned for the safety of journalists in Guatemala, based on information we have received from the Centro para la Defensa de la Libertad de Expresión (CEDEX), a Guatemalan press freedom organization.

According to a CEDEX communiqué sent yesterday, May 18, at least four reporters for the Guatemala City daily elPeriódico were threatened or intimidated while the newspaper was preparing an investigative article about a secret intelligence operation.

On Monday, May 15, elPeriódico published an article describing a secret intelligence agency run by the Presidential High Command (Estado Mayor Presidencial) under the direction of a retired military officer, Jacobo Salán Sánchez. The night before the story ran, a reporter with the newspaper was followed to his residence by a Plymouth automobile with its license plates covered. Several other reporters who worked on the story or who cover military affairs have received threatening phone calls or have been followed recently by cars without license plates.

Given Guatemala’s unfortunate history of violence against journalists, CPJ is deeply concerned by these recent reports. We are particularly concerned by the possibility that the Guatemalan government may have threatened journalists in order to prevent them from covering an issue of obvious public interest.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we urgently request that you investigate these allegations, and provide us with any information relating to your findings. In addition, we urge you to take adequate measures to ensure that journalists in Guatemala are able to work safely, without threats or intimidation.


Joel Simon
Deputy Director