PERU’S INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS HELPED drive President Alberto K. Fujimori from power after forcing his once-mighty intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos into exile. Fujimori’s November departure led to the unshackling of the independent press, which had seriously suffered under a regime that tried to manipulate public information for a decade.
President Fujimori used all resources at his disposal against the independent media, earning a place on CPJ’s list of the Ten Worst Enemies of the Press in 1999 and 2000. Fujimori’s arsenal included surveillance, smear tactics, and trumped-up charges against journalists and publications. He decimated independent television journalism and monopolized airtime on pro-government stations. Tabloids and a Web site controlled by members of the president’s inner circle specialized in character assassinations of opposition politicians, along with journalists who reported critically on the president.
Given this record, there were loud protests when Fujimori decided to run in the April 9 general election, despite an apparent constitutional prohibition against him serving a third term. Fujimori’s populist policies, however, had earned him broad support among Peru’s rural population, and the president was expected to claim an easy victory over his primary opponent, former World Bank economist Alejandro Toledo.
But Peruvian journalists changed the script by publishing damaging revelations that eroded Fujimori’s legitimacy. On February 29, the highly respected Lima daily El Comercio ran an exposé accusing members of the ruling coalition, Perú 2000, of forging over a million signatures to register him as a candidate. Within weeks of its scoop, the newspaper was subjected to legal harassment. Canal N, an independent cable channel that El Comercio‘s owners launched in 1999, was harassed throughout the year.
Fujimori was undeterred by the national and international condemnation that followed these allegations. While Toledo was able to force a runoff election in the first round, he boycotted the second contest, accusing the president of fraud. Fujimori was inaugurated on July 28, amid anti-government protest demonstrations. It would be a short third term.
On August 21, Fujimori and Montesinos announced with much fanfare that they had disbanded an international arms-trafficking network that used Peru as an intermediary in the sale of Russian weapons to Colombian guerrillas. In fact, local journalists had already begun to uncover possible links between Montesinos’ spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (SIN), and the gunrunners.
Reporters at imediaperu.com, a new Internet press agency that published a series on the SIN/arms trafficking scandal, often observed a car or van with tinted windows stationed outside their office. Similar vehicles followed Cecilia Valenzuela, the agency’s director. The agency’s telephone regularly went out of service, as did Valenzuela’s cellular phone. Beginning on September 2, the pro-government tabloids began a smear campaign against Valenzuela. The harassment stopped a week later after it was denounced by various international organizations. Montesinos’ possible Colombian arms deal connection was still being investigated at year’s end.
The real bombshell came on September 14, when Canal N broadcast a video showing Montesinos bribing an opposition congressman who later switched to the ruling coalition. Two days later, Fujimori said he would dismantle the SIN and promised to hold new elections in which he would not be a candidate. Later that month, Montesinos fled to Panama, but was denied asylum in that country. He was then reported to have returned to Peru, and Fujimori personally staged a brief, massively publicized manhunt that mostly elicited derision. Montesinos’ whereabouts were unknown at year’s end.
After attending a November summit of the Pacific Rim leaders in the Southeast Asian country of Brunei, Fujimori made a stop in Japan, the original homeland of his parents. On November 20, after the opposition had gained control of Congress, Fujimori faxed his resignation to Congress from a Tokyo hotel room. The Congress spurned the resignation and declared Fujimori morally unfit to hold office. Political moderate Valentín Paniagua was sworn in two days later. He will lead a caretaker government until July 2001, when the winner of new elections, scheduled for April, will assume the presidency.
The prospects for broadcast media are now much brighter, as was illustrated by the return of exiled TV executive Baruch Ivcher on December 6. The Fujimori government dispossessed the Israeli-born businessman of his television station Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2 in 1997, after the station broadcast investigative reports on Montesinos’ personal finances and the illicit activities of the SIN. The station was returned to Ivcher in late 2000, after the Paniagua government dismissed all legal actions against him.
In another move that helped restore independent television, Genaro Delgado Parker, who had been stripped of Red Global de Televisión-Canal 13 in 1999, regained control of his station after negotiations held under the auspices of the Organization of American States.
Newspapers that were once linked to the SIN are now facing difficult times. On September 28, the Lima daily La República reported that several tabloid newspapers formerly dedicated to orchestrated smear campaigns against journalists and opposition members had taken a 180-degree turn. El Mañanero, a tabloid that had been rabidly pro-Fujimori, published a story about a national transportation strike under the headline “And who will save us now?” The question might appropriately be asked about the newspaper itself.
Ricardo Palma Michelson, Radio Miraflores
Oscar Díaz, Radio Miraflores
Palma, the owner of the Lima-based independent station Radio Miraflores, received anonymous threats after a January 8 broadcast of Díaz’s interviews with businessman Baruch Ivcher and former Peruvian president Alan García Pérez. Both men criticized the government of President Alberto K. Fujimori.
The January 8 interview was part of the first broadcast of Díaz’s program “La Revista del Momento” (“News of the Moment”). Díaz had recently returned to the station after working in print media for some seven years.
On January 10, Palma distanced Radio Miraflores from the interviews. During his own program, “Buenos Días Señor Presidente” (“Good day Mr. President”), Palma announced that Radio Miraflores did not endorse the views of either Ivcher or García. Palma added that due to the station’s policy of not approving programs before they are aired, he had not been aware of the content of the January 8 broadcast.
Díaz told CPJ that he subsequently received a call from Palma, who confided that he had received anonymous threats after the program aired. On March 2, for example, Palma was stopped in the middle of the street by a stranger who threatened to hurt his family unless he took Díaz’s program off the air.
On March 7, CPJ published a news alert expressing concern about these threats.
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Officials confiscated broadcast equipment from the studios and transmitting facility of the independent station Radio 1160. Although the action was ostensibly meant to secure compensation for an old debt, CPJ sources said its real purpose was to silence a new program called “Ondas de Libertad” (“Freedom Waves”), hosted by journalist César Hildebrandt.
On the night before the raid, Hildebrandt had broadcast an interview with Susana Higuchi, the ex-wife of President Alberto K. Fujimori. Higuchi, who at the time was an opposition candidate for Congress, accused the president of corruption.
At approximately 8:40 a.m., just after a second broadcast of the Higuchi interview, officials raided Radio 1160’s studios and its transmitting facility, which are located in two different Lima districts.
The action was ordered by the 47th Lima Civil Court as a way of collecting US$113,000 owed by the Empresa Radiodifusora Marconi company, which owns Radio 1160.
However, the creditor and court officials had both previously rebuffed Radio 1160’s attempts to settle its debt. During a press conference held after the raid, Marconi’s general manager, Federico Castro, displayed copies of notarized letters sent on February 7 and 8, in which Marconi offered to clear the debt. Castro also showed reporters three checks that he had used to try and settle the debt during the raid itself. The officials refused to accept these checks. Castro claimed the value of the confiscated equipment totaled about US$300,000, or more than twice the amount that the station owed.
The seizure violated Article 2, Paragraph 4 of Peru’s constitution, which forbids any “action that suspends or closes any organ of expression or prevents it from circulating freely.” It also violated Article 651 of the Civil Procedure Code, which forbids the confiscation of any company’s essential equipment.
In a February 22 letter to President Fujimori, CPJ argued that Radio 1160 had been raided in order to silence one of the few independent voices in Peruvian journalism.
The Lima daily El Comercio was subjected to protracted legal harassment after publishing an exposé accusing the ruling coalition of electoral fraud.
On February 29, El Comercio published an exposé accusing President Alberto K. Fujimori’s ruling coalition, Perú 2000, of forging over one million signatures required to register Fujimori as a candidate in the April 9 presidential election.
In mid-March, government prosecutors charged El Comercio with having misused government-provided funds between 1989 and 1990. Prosecutors sought to transfer control of the paper to the minority shareholders, who were supporters of President Fujimori. El Comercio was one the few Peruvian media outlets that dared to criticize the Fujimori government.
On March 17, CPJ published an alert protesting the charges against El Comercio. On March 30, lead prosecutor Jorge Sanz withdrew the government’s case against El Comercio, arguing that there was no evidence against the daily and that the statute of limitations had in any case expired. The matter did not end there, however.
On July 11, after more than three months of complex legal maneuvering, Superior Prosecutor Eguía Dávalos formally shelved the case against El Comercio, based on the statute of limitations. An appeal by the minority shareholders was declared inadmissible on August 29, putting an end to all government legal actions against the daily.
Hernán Carrión de la Cruz, Radio Ancash
Carrión de la Cruz, a broadcaster for Radio Ancash in the northern port of Chimbote, narrowly escaped being shot on April 3.
The shooting took place at about 6:30 p.m., after Carrión de la Cruz noticed a van following him as he drove through downtown Chimbote. Carrión de la Cruz told CPJ that the van pulled beside him at a red light, where he saw its left window roll down and a man point a gun at him. He said that he instinctively stepped on the gas pedal and ran the red light, hearing a shot as he drove away.
The journalist, director of the news program “Ancash en la Noticia” (“Ancash on the News”), broadcast twice a day from Monday to Friday, said he thought he was attacked because of “the criticisms we make of the government and the fact that we give voice to different people.”
Carrión de la Cruz’s troubles with the management of his station began on April 18, when Radio Ancash broadcast a local opinion poll unfavorable to President Alberto K. Fujimori one day before Fujimori visited Chimbote on a campaign trip.
The poll results suggested widespread discontent with the government because of political repression and extensive unemployment. Radio Ancash’s owner, Dante Moreno, subsequently received notice of a tax audit from the National Division of Tax Administration (SUNAT) ordering him to submit records within three days or be fined 150,000 soles (US$45,000).
Moreno later told Carrión de la Cruz to “take a rest” for a week, because he did not want to risk a fine. On May 25, Moreno suspended Carrión de la Cruz’s program until further notice, claiming it was for the journalist’s own safety.
Carrión de la Cruz told CPJ that even though the station later suspended all news programing, he continued to receive threatening phone calls. On May 26, CPJ wrote to President Fujimori asking him to guarantee the safety of Carrión de la Cruz and his family and to order a thorough investigation into the threats against the journalist.
The National Elections Board imposed a fine of 290,000 soles (US$84,000) on the television station Canal N for inadvertently violating a ban on publicizing poll results before an election.
On the evening of April 5, Canal N broadcast a live panel discussion from the International Press Center in Lima on the presidential elections scheduled for April 9. Because Article 191 of Peru’s Organic Law of Elections prohibits the publication of polling data less than 15 days before an election, the state agency that organized the event instructed participants not to cite poll data on the air.
One panelist who had arrived after the warning quoted recent polls to support his analysis. Since the broadcast was live, Canal N was not able to edit out the remarks.
CPJ protested the fine in an April 7 letter to President Alberto K. Fujimori.
Ronald Ripa Casafranca, Radio Panorama
Ripa, news director of Radio Panorama in the town of Andahuaylas, in the southern department of Apurimac, received death threats after covering peasant protests in the region.
On the morning the threats occurred, the journalist had been reporting via telephone for Canal N, a cable television channel in Lima, on demonstrations by peasants demanding higher prices for agricultural produce, a ban on importing potatoes, the main local crop, and the dismissal of certain local officials.
At 3 p.m., Ripa received the first threatening phone call at his home-an anonymous caller telling him that he would be made to “disappear.” Forty minutes later, a second caller told Ripa to consider himself dead.
Local police refused to register the journalist’s complaint that day, but allowed him to file a complaint on May 2.
Local sources told CPJ that Radio Panorama had been very critical of the Peruvian government in the past, and that its investigative reports had often embarrassed local officials.
Nancy Villacorta Pérez, Radio 10
Villacorta, the host of a news program on Radio 10 in Iquitos, a town in the Amazonian department of Loreto, was the target of an extended harassment campaign sparked by her vocal criticisms of President Alberto K. Fujimori’s government.
During the last two weeks of May, Villacorta received a string of threatening, anonymous late-night phone calls, usually at her home, warning her not to criticize the ruling coalition, Perú 2000. Meanwhile, unidentified individuals who resembled military personnel kept Villacorta’s house under constant surveillance. Two such men stopped her 13-year-old son in the street, told him that his mother was in danger, and added that she could have an “accident” at any time.
Radio 10 was managed by Congresswoman-elect Patricia Donayre Pasquel of the Independent Moralizing Front (FIP). The station had exposed corruption cases involving local officials, and had questioned the strong links between local government and the Peruvian armed forces.
On June 1, Villacorta and her Radio 10 colleague Armando Murrieta complained on the air about anonymous flyers that made insulting and slanderous references to their private lives. Radio 10 investigators later found that a local Perú 2000 official, Edwin Floret, was responsible for printing and distributing the flyers.
Villacorta also claimed that Mendo Alcalde, Perú 2000’s regional coordinator, had insulted and threatened her after she aired a report accusing Alcalde of misusing funds from a local savings-and-loan institution.
The journalist said she did not file a complaint with local police because she believed they were corrupt and biased in favor of her tormenters.
Fabián Salazar, La República
Salazar, a columnist with the Lima-based daily La República and a former executive at TV station Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2, was attacked just after receiving allegedly damaging information about high-level officials in the government, according to statements Salazar made to the local press.
On May 24, Salazar said, he received five videos, three diskettes, and a folder from a source close to the National Intelligence Service (SIN). The videos apparently showed SIN director Vladimiro Montesinos, a close adviser to President Alberto K. Fujimori, in a secret meeting with the heads of the National Elections Jury and the National Electoral Processes Office. According to Salazar, the folder contained documents handwritten by Montesinos, and a notebook of information compiled since 1996 on Baruch Ivcher, an Israeli-born businessman who in 1997 was stripped of both his Peruvian citizenship and his TV station, Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2, after the station aired damaging investigative reports about the SIN.
After receiving the information, Salazar said, he called his secretary and ask her to accompany him to the offices of the election observer team of the Organization of American States.
Within 10 minutes of the call, at around 7 p.m., a man knocked on the door of Salazar’s office in downtown Lima and identified himself as a National Division of Tax Administration (SUNAT) worker. When Salazar opened the door, the man and three accomplices forced him to sit on a chair. They wrapped adhesive tape around his mouth, his eyes, and his feet, and beat him. They then interrogated him, demanding that he disclose the source of his material. To make him speak, they cut his wrist with a saw.
At some point the attackers fled, apparently after the building security called for help. Before fleeing, they trashed the office and set it on fire. Salazar was able to crawl out of his office and escape the flames, which were put out by firemen. The journalist was then taken to a nearby clinic, where he underwent surgery and recovered successfully.
Salazar believed the attackers were government agents, and said that for the past two years he had been under constant surveillance and had received threats. While some media close to the Fujimori government disputed Salazar’s account, CPJ sources confirmed that Salazar was likely attacked because of information in his possession.
On May 25, members of the Peruvian journalists’ group Asociación Prensa Libre submitted Salazar’s case to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), requesting injunctive relief. At press time, the case was pending before the IACHR. On May 26, CPJ sent a protest letter to President Fujimori regarding the attack on Salazar, who subsequently left Peru.
Mónica Vecco, La República
After publishing a story on the ruling party’s election tactics, Vecco, a reporter with the investigative unit of the Lima daily La República, received a threatening e-mail message.
Vecco reported that Perú 2000, President Alberto K. Fujimori’s coalition, had produced election propaganda at a printing shop owned by a retired army officer. A colleague from La República told CPJ that the National Intelligence Service (SIN) was suspected of running the shop.
The e-mail was signed by the “April 5 Group,” a reference to April 5, 1992, when President Fujimori dissolved the Peruvian Congress and assumed absolute powers. It was filled with obscenities and contained a death threat. The message arrived on Vecco’s computer at about 2:50 p.m., several hours after her story appeared in La República.
Efforts to track down the source of the message led investigators to a library in Indianapolis, Indiana, jointly administered by Indiana University and Purdue University.
Baruch Ivcher, Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2
Polish police detained Baruch Ivcher, former owner of the Lima TV station Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2, for about five hours at Warsaw International Airport. He was then released.
Ivcher had come to Warsaw to attend a conference called the World Forum on Democracy. The Peruvian government, meanwhile, had long sought Ivcher’s arrest and extradition through international channels. When he arrived at the airport, local police executed an Interpol warrant for his arrest.
Before being detained, Ivcher had met with a delegation headed by former Peruvian presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo, who was also attending the forum. Toledo’s delegation quickly publicized the arrest, calling for Ivcher’s release.
Initially, the Peruvian government tried to dismiss Ivcher’s detention as a “publicity stunt” engineered by the Toledo-led opposition. But on June 26 the Polish Embassy at Lima issued a press release confirming the detention and subsequent release.
The government first moved against Ivcher in 1997, after Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2 aired a series of damaging investigative reports about President Alberto K. Fujimori’s government. That same year, Peruvian authorities stripped Ivcher, an Israeli immigrant who had become a naturalized Peruvian, of his citizenship. Under Peruvian law, he thus became ineligible to own a television station. In addition, Ivcher’s controlling interest in Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2 was transferred to Fujimori-backed minority shareholders.
CPJ circulated a news alert about Ivcher’s detention on June 29.
The restoration of Ivcher’s Peruvian citizenship was one of 29 agenda items during July negotiations between the government and the opposition, overseen by the Organization of American States (OAS) and intended to strengthen democracy in Peru.
On August 23, as a result of these talks, the government sent Congress a bill to restore Ivcher’s Peruvian citizenship. Ivcher denounced this bill, however, because it did not revoke the actions of the minority shareholders who had taken control of Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2.
During their eighth negotiating session, on October 27, the government and the opposition agreed that Ivcher’s Peruvian citizenship should be restored, that all legal harassment against him should cease, and that he should “recover all his attributes as stockholder and manager of Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2,” in accordance with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
In its November 8 issue, the government newspaper El Peruano published an official document that restored Ivcher’s citizenship. However, this resolution did not address all the lawsuits that Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2’s minority shareholders and the government had filed against him. On November 15, Vice President Ricardo Márquez ordered the Ministry of the Interior to execute the IACHR recommendations.
On November 20 and 21, the IACHR took Ivcher’s case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. After hearing Ivcher’s testimony, the court stayed all Peruvian legal actions against Ivcher and his family, so that they could return to Peru without fearing further judicial harassment. The court announced that it would issue a final ruling on the case in the next few months.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights first heard the Ivcher case in 1999. Partly in response to this action, the Peruvian government took the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the court’s jurisdiction that same year.
On December 2, 12 days after Fujimori resigned in disgrace during a visit to Japan, Valentín Paniagua’s new interim government canceled all pending legal actions against Ivcher.
On December 6, Ivcher and his family returned to Peru. Two days after his arrival at Lima, Ivcher regained control of Frecuencia Latina-Canal 2.
The Peruvian government imposed flight restrictions over Lima that prevented the local cable news station Canal N from using its helicopter to film street protests against President Alberto K. Fujimori’s swearing-in ceremony on July 28.
On the evening of July 24, according to Peruvian press reports, the Defense Command of the Peruvian Air Force (FAP) issued an order prohibiting civilian aircraft flights below 9000 feet over Lima from 6 a.m. on July 25 to 6 p.m. on July 29.
In a country where most TV stations depend on state advertising, Canal N was one of only a few local outlets that dared criticize the Fujimori government. The station had recently bought a helicopter to facilitate air coverage of the demonstrations. But on the morning of July 25, Lima police surrounded the helicopter and barred Canal N reporters from boarding it.
Although the Defense Command of the FAP portrayed the flight restrictions as a necessary safety measure to facilitate aircraft training exercises relating to a July 29 military parade in Lima, it was unclear why the FAP would need to prohibit civilian aircraft flights below 9000 feet. The restrictions did not affect commercial aircraft.
Peruvian ombudsman Jorge Santistevan denounced the flight restrictions as a “violation of the right to freedom of information and expression.” On July 26, Santistevan sent an official letter to the FAP demanding that the restrictions be lifted.
The restrictions coincided with a nationwide protest campaign organized by presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo, a former World Bank economist who had forced Fujimori into a second round and then boycotted the May 28 runoff after accusing the president of fraud. On July 28, CPJ issued a news alert protesting the restrictions.
Miguel Carrillo, etecé
José Tejada, etecé
Jorge Mejía, Coordinadora Nacional de Radios
On the final day of a three-day nationwide campaign organized by the political opposition to protest Alberto K. Fujimori’s controversial election to a third term, civilian mobs and police carried out several attacks against journalists covering the march in Lima. Several incidents of vandalism against media property were recorded, according to local reports and sources contacted by CPJ.
On July 28, the protests escalated into street battles between police and protesters. Riot police cordoned off a large section of downtown Lima, chased protesters, and reportedly fired tear gas directly into crowds. While the police blamed demonstrators for the violence, the opposition blamed government provocateurs who had allegedly infiltrated the protests.
Carrillo, a reporter with the Lima magazine etecé, was beaten while covering the protests, according to local news reports. Carrillo was photographing protesters near Lima’s Parque Universitario when several demonstrators shoved him to the ground and kicked him. The attackers also grabbed the journalist’s camera and gas mask, and then ran for cover after a police tear gas grenade landed nearby. Carrillo suffered bruises in the attack.
Tejada, a photographer with etecé, was attacked twice. While shooting near Abancay Avenue, he was beaten and insulted by demonstrators who apparently did not want to be photographed. Tejada subsequently went to the Plaza de Armas, facing the Palace of Government. While he and other journalists were taking pictures of a protester who had fainted and was being helped up by fellow demonstrators, police assaulted the photographer, inflicting bruises and damaging his camera.
Mejía, a journalist with the Lima broadcasting association Coordinadora Nacional de Radios, was wounded by a police tear gas grenade while covering protests near the Parque Universitario. The grenade wounded Mejía’s left hand while he was preparing to file a report via cellular phone. The journalist suffered a fracture in the hand, which was set at Rebagliati Hospital in Lima.
At around 3:30 a.m. on July 29, meanwhile, an unregistered blue car with dark windows arrived at the studios of cable channel Canal N, the only local TV outlet that dared to criticize the Fujimori administration. The driver threatened the station’s security guard, and then drove away. Minutes later, an unregistered white car stopped in front of Canal N and fired four shots in the air.
Paul Vanotti, Pacific News Service
Vanotti, a cameraman working for Lizbeth Hasse, a reporter with the San Francisco-based Pacific News Service, was wounded by a tear-gas canister in Lima while the two were covering a nationwide campaign organized by the political opposition to protest President Alberto K. Fujimori’s controversial election to a third term.
The three-day campaign, which started on July 26, was mostly peaceful until July 28, when street battles erupted between police and protesters. Riot police cordoned off much of downtown Lima and chased demonstrators down avenues clouded with tear gas.
In a piece for Pacific News Radio, Hasse recounted how she and Vanotti had been interviewing marchers as they walked from Lima’s Plaza Grau towards the Palace of Government, where Fujimori was to be inaugurated.
As Vanotti was adjusting his camera next to a local TV truck, away from the marching crowds, the police suddenly turned on a water cannon and started throwing tear gas projectiles at the protesters. One of the projectiles shattered the glass of Vanotti’s gas mask and struck his right eye. His face covered in blood, Vanotti fell to the ground.
Hasse said two policemen she approached for directions to a hospital refused to help them. Some demonstrators finally found an ambulance several blocks away, and Vanotti was taken to Loayza Hospital. From there, the cameraman was transferred to the National Ophthalmology Institute (INO), where doctors surgically repaired his cornea and extracted glass particles.
Gen. Fernando Dianderas, head of the National Police, told local reporters that Vanotti’s wounds had been caused by a stone thrown by the protesters; Hasse described the incident as “an outright attack by armed, riot-geared police.” And in an interview with the Lima daily El Comercio, Vanotti stated definitively that the projectile had been fired from a police truck.
CPJ circulated a news alert about the attack on June 28.
James Beuzebille, Radio Arpegio de Iquitos
Four employees of a powerful local businessman threatened Beuzebille, director and host of the radio show “La Razón” (“The Reason”), broadcast by Radio Arpegio from Iquitos, in the northern department of Loreto.
On August 15, the four men were seen taking pictures of people entering and leaving Radio Arpegio’s offices. On August 17, the same four men visited Beuzebille and threatened to kill him if he continued to talk about Roberto Rotondo, a businessman with investments in local tourism projects. The threats stemmed from broadcasts by Beuzebille that accused Rotondo of responsibility for an August 14 open letter to the mayor of Maynas, Iván Vásquez Valera, urging him to stop organizing protest demonstrations. (Vásquez Valera is a leader of the opposition movement Fuerza Loretana. During the April presidential elections, he allied himself with opposition candidate Alejandro Toledo.) Rotondo had close ties to senior officials in the ruling Perú 2000 coalition.
After they filed a complaint with the local prosecutor’s office, Beuzebille and Radio Arpegio director Andrés Ferreira were summoned to the office for a meeting with Rotondo on August 29. During the meeting, Rotondo acknowledged that the four men were employees of a private security company that he owned but denied that the threats had been issued on his orders, according to CPJ sources.
Alexis Fiestas Quinto, El Popular
Víctor Granda, El Popular
Fiestas Quinto and Granda, reporter and photographer, respectively, with the Lima daily El Popular, were attacked and abducted by Ricardo Chiroque, mayor of the Lima district San Juan de Lurigancho. Chiroque was accompanied by his security chief and bodyguards.
At around 6 p.m., Fiestas Quinto and Granda were covering a demonstration protesting unsanitary conditions in a San Juan de Lurigancho neighborhood and demanding more food rations and milk for local community kitchens. As Fiestas Quinto and Granda took pictures and interviewed protesters, Chiroque and his entourage surrounded the journalists, according to the Lima daily La República.
The journalists were kicked, shoved to the floor, and then taken at gunpoint to one of Chiroque’s offices. There, Fiestas Quinto and Granda were held for two hours and stripped of a camera, a notebook, their press credentials, and some personal belongings. After being released with bruises and contusions, the journalists filed a complaint with the local police station.
The same day, Chiroque, a member of the ruling coalition, accused the journalists of forcibly entering his office and trying to blackmail him. Fiestas Quinto and Granda ridiculed Chiroque’s allegations in an interview with La República, contending that at least 20 security personnel had been guarding the mayor’s office.