JUNE 12, 2005
Posted: June 30, 2005



Masked assailants attacked the offices of the daily Frontera in the city of Mérida, in the western state of Mérida, in apparent retaliation for a news report.

About 30 people arrived in a stolen bus at around 11:30 p.m., while the paper was being printed, and tried unsuccessfully to enter the premises, according to Benigno Villegas, the paper’s managing assistant. When they threw Molotov cocktails, the paper’s staff summoned state police. The attack caused minor damages, but no injuries. Police provided protection for five days.

The newspaper attributed the attack to a report Frontera published that day on the slaying of a University of los Andes student. The report described the circumstances of the student’s death, noted he had a criminal record, and listed crimes for which he had been investigated.

On June 13 and 14, about 40 people rioted and burned a vehicle in Mérida to protest the death of the student and demand justice, according to local news reports. The protesters demanded that Frontera apologize publicly and retract its report, which was based on police sources.

In a June 14 editorial, Frontera said that armed groups operating within the Universidad de los Andes were responsible for the attack on the newspaper.

Villegas said that criminal police, which operate separate from state police, did not investigate the attack and did not come to Frontera‘s offices. Newspaper officials did not file a formal complaint with police, he said, because they did not know the specific group behind the attack and feared an investigation would blame Frontera‘s report for provoking the attack.