A demonstrator holds a placard in support of José Rubén Zamora, president of the elPeriódico newspaper. Zamora has been imprisoned since July 29, 2022. (AFP/Johan Ordonez)

Guatemalan police detain elPeriódico financial manager for alleged money laundering

Guatemala City, August 23, 2022–Guatemalan authorities must stop harassing employees of the elPeriódico newspaper, unconditionally release its financial manager Flora Silva, and allow its staff to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On August 19, Guatemalan police arrested Silva after a raid on her home, according to a statement by the public prosecutor’s office and news reports. Later that day, Silva was transferred to the San Juan de Dios General Hospital due to high blood pressure, according to Ramón Zamora, the outlet’s marketing manager, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

Silva was arrested in connection with a criminal investigation into the outlet’s president, José Rubén Zamora, who has been detained since July 29 for alleged money laundering, blackmail, and influence peddling, according to those sources.

She remained in custody at the hospital until the afternoon of Tuesday, August 23, when she was transferred to the Mariscal Zavala prison, according to news reports, which said a preliminary hearing in her case has been set for Thursday.

“Guatemalan authorities should immediately release elPeriódico financial manager Flora Silva and José Rubén Zamora, the outlet’s president,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “After raiding Zamora’s home and detaining him on dubious financial charges, authorities are now targeting the outlet’s other staff in the clearest sign yet that prosecutors are trying to intimidate an investigative outlet that has critically reported on corruption.”

Authorities allege that Silva “instructed her staff to prepare paperwork to support a money transaction,” as part of the alleged money laundering scheme “led by Zamora,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.

José Rubén Zamora has claimed that the case against the newspaper is retaliation for its reporting on alleged corruption involving President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras.

CPJ emailed the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office and contacted Juan Luis Pantaleon, a spokesperson for the office, via messaging app, but did not receive any replies.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its fourth paragraph to include updates to Silva’s status that were disclosed after this story’s initial publication.]