Critical journalist shot to death in Guayaquil

New York, June 23, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Ecuadorian authorities to investigate the death of Raúl Rodríguez Coronel, who was shot to death this morning in Guayaquil. CPJ is investigating all possible links between Rodríguez’s work as a journalist and his death.

Rodríguez, news vice president and host of the daily news and opinion program “Buenos Días Ecuador” (Good Morning Ecuador) on the Guayaquil-based Radio Sucre, left the radio station shortly after 7 a.m. today, Radio Sucre’s manager, Gabriel Arroba, told CPJ. After finishing this morning’s show, Rodríguez drove to Guayacanes, a neighborhood north of the city, to pick up family members, said Arroba. When he arrived at his cousin’s house at around 7:15 a.m., an unidentified man wearing a hat approached him and fired a weapon, witnesses told Radio Sucre reporters. According to Arroba, witnesses said Rodríguez hid behind a car but his aggressor followed him and fired more shots before fleeing in a nearby taxi driven by an unidentified woman. Rodríguez was taken to local Kennedy Clinic, where he died an hour later from four gunshot wounds to the leg, pelvis and torso, Arroba told CPJ.

Local journalists told CPJ they believe Rodríguez was attacked in retaliation for his sharp criticism on “Buenos Días Ecuador.” Arroba said Rodríguez often wrote critically about local criminal activities, corruption in the customs office, and lately Ecuador’s constituent assembly for its positions on gay marriage and abortion. Rodríguez, who had received multiple anonymous threats for his reporting on the customs office in the past few years, had not been threatened in at least four months, said Arroba.

The Guayas Judicial Police immediately began an investigation, reported Radio Sucre. However, police have not made any information public, Arroba told CPJ.
“We are saddened by Raúl Rodríguez Coronel’s murder and present our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues,” said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “We call on the Ecuadorian authorities to conduct a timely and thorough investigation into this crime and bring all those responsible for this murder to justice.”

Since taking office in January 2007, President Rafael Correa has regularly bashed the news media, reflecting increasing tensions between his socialist government and the powerful business groups that control the country’s media. However, deadly violence against journalists has been rare, according to CPJ research.

José Luis León Desiderio, host of the daily news program “Opinión” on local Radio Minutera, was shot to death in Guayaquil in February 2006. León often denounced gang violence and police inaction in the city. In June 2006, three men were accused in the killing. But in a report made public on October 27, 2006, local prosecutor Miriam Rosales Riofrío cited insufficient evidence and cleared two of the men. The daily El Universo reported that the third man, Medardo Bone Bone, was held after two witnesses identified him as the gunman. No motive was immediately established.