Wounded Guatemalan radio host in stable condition

New York, August 25, 2006—Radio host Vinicio Aguilar Mancilla, shot Wednesday morning, was in stable condition at a Guatemala City hospital today as investigators sought his assailants. The Committee to Protect Journalists is monitoring the investigation to determine whether the attack was related to Aguilar’s journalistic work.

In an interview with CPJ today, Aguilar said he believed the attack was related to his work but was not connected to Radio 10’s coverage of a lawsuit involving Avícola Villalobos, a Guatemalan corporation. The station director, Oscar Rodolfo Castañeda, told CPJ on Thursday that the station had been threatened after reporting on the case.

Avícola Villalobos, one of Central America’s largest agricultural conglomerates, said in a statement that it wished Aguilar a speedy recovery but said that it had no involvement in any way in the assault. Aguilar told CPJ his reporting on violent crime could be behind the attack.

Minister of Interior Carlos Vielmann told CPJ that investigators had not yet determined a motive. Vielmann said local police investigated the crime scene and interviewed several family members. He said the attack appears not to have been a robbery and that Aguilar’s work is being considered as a possible motive.

He said two motorcyclists followed him from his house to a street corner where he regularly meets friends for a morning jog. He said one assailant grabbed him up by the hair, put his hand in his mouth, and said “this is to shut you up.” The attacker then fired a shot that wounded Aguilar in the mouth and, because the journalist made a defensive motion, in the hand. Aguilar said he did not recognize the men.

Aguilar was taken to Hospital Herrera Llerandi. He received reconstructive surgery on his cheek, jawbone and tongue, and his right hand. Aguilar is now at the intensive care unit awaiting a second surgery for the wounds to his mouth tomorrow.