New York, September 8, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned for the safety of Cándido Figueredo following an attempt by Paraguayan police to withdraw his security detail.
Figueredo — who reports from Pedro Juan Caballero, on the border of Brazil, for ABC Color, one of Paraguay’s largest national dailies — has lived under 24-hour police protection for more than two decades following years of death threats for his coverage on organized crime and drug trafficking. Figueredo, a 2015 CPJ International Press Freedom awardee, told CPJ that the police chief of the eastern Amambay Department informed him last week that police would cancel his security detail.
Figueredo said he immediately filed a petition before a court in Pedro Juan Caballero to order the police to maintain the security detail, arguing that he was still in danger, and that the court ruled in his favor on September 2. Figueredo has recently reported on sensitive issues, including the June 15 murder of a drug kingpin in Pedro Juan Caballero.
“We are disturbed that authorities in Paraguay attempted to remove police protection from one of the most at-risk journalists in the country,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Cándido Figueredo faces constant threat for his courageous reporting on organized crime. Paraguay should ensure that he can continue do this important work without fear of physical retribution.”
A spokeswoman for the national police told reporters that assigning several officers to protect a single person was not a good use of resources, according to press reports.
“Instead of having seven, eight, or even 10 agents assigned to a single person, we can have two for that purpose and release the rest so they can be available for the community,” Elisa Ledesma, chief of public relations for the Paraguayan police, said in remarks quoted by the daily newspaper Hoy. Figueredo told CPJ that only three policemen are assigned to his security detail at a time.
The border of Paraguay and Brazil is among the most dangerous areas for journalists in Latin America. Figueredo’s town, Pedro Juan Caballero, is a major transit point for cocaine, marijuana, illegal cigarettes, guns, and electronics. His coverage of smuggling and the collusion between politicians and drug traffickers has made him one of the most respected journalists in Paraguay. He has described to CPJ how living under threat and with security guards for so many years has turned him into a prisoner in his own home, with little ability to socialize or maintain friendships.