Paraguayan journalist targeted by criminal groups

New York, February 1, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists called today on Paraguayan and Brazilian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into death threats against journalist Cándido Figueredo and to ensure his safety. Police officials confirmed last month that they had intercepted a phone call between two criminal figures who discussed killing the Paraguayan journalist, according to local press reports.

Figueredo is the longtime correspondent for the Asunción-based daily ABC Color in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, which is the capital of the eastern Amambay Department. The region, located on the border with Brazil, has a history of lawlessness and contraband activities. Figueredo has been under 24-hour government protection for almost 13 years due to his reporting on drug trafficking, and his car and his office each have been attacked twice by gunmen. The journalist described in a video interview that living under threats and with security guards for so many years has turned him into a recluse, with little ability to socialize or maintain friendships.

Authorities believe the latest threats stem from a series of articles by Figueredo published in ABC Color in September that investigated secret tunnels used for smuggling drugs on the Brazilian side of the border, the daily reported. After publication of the articles, the local Brazilian police’s anti-drug unit destroyed the tunnels and arrested several people involved in the trafficking.

In the phone call, which was intercepted by Brazilian authorities in early January, an unidentified Paraguayan man located in the Brazilian city of Capitán Bado complains to an unidentified Brazilian man being held in a jail in the Brazilian city of Campo Grande that drug trafficking operations have been severely disrupted since the publication of Figueredo’s articles. After the Brazilian man asks whether the same reporter “as always” has written the stories and what can be done about the situation, the Paraguayan man answers: “If he lived in my area, in my city, he wouldn’t live more than six days,” according to ABC Color.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety of journalist Cándido Figueredo,” said CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “In light of the latest threats, we urge Paraguayan authorities to cooperate with Brazilian authorities to thoroughly and assertively investigate these threats and bring those responsible to justice.”

CPJ research shows that journalists who report on drug trafficking or local corruption in Paraguayan border towns have been victims of violent reprisals. Radio reporter Tito Alberto Palma was shot to death in the southeastern border town of Mayor Otaño in 2007. Paraguay’s eastern border with Brazil — where smuggling includes not only drugs but cigarettes, fuel, clothes, and electronics — is particularly dangerous.