Bogotá, September 8, 2022—Paraguayan authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Humberto Coronel, determine if he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Tuesday, September 6, an unidentified man on a motorcycle shot and killed Coronel as he left the office of his employer, Radio Amambay, in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero near Paraguay’s border with Brazil, according to multiple reports by the local newspaper ABC Color.
According to those reports, which include a video of the attack, Coronel was shot eight times as he left the privately owned broadcaster’s office. Coronel hosted a daily news and music program on Radio Amambay, where he sometimes denounced political corruption and the police force’s alleged inability to solve crimes, according to Gustavo Báez, a journalist who also works at the radio station, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
According to Báez and ABC Color, an unidentified person left a written death threat at Báez’s home in June, which said in Portuguese that he and Coronel “knew too much.” The journalists reported the threat to local authorities, but Coronel refused offers of police protection because he did not trust the police, Báez told CPJ.
“Paraguayan authorities should leave no stone unturned in investigating the brutal killing of journalist Humberto Coronel in Pedro Juan Caballero, which has become the deadliest place for the Paraguayan press,” said CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Police must treat this case with utmost seriousness, determine whether Coronel was targeted for his work, and bring all those responsible to justice.”
Following his death, Pedro Juan Caballero public prosecutor Katia Uemura said that Coronel’s previous refusal of police protection amounted to having “gifted himself” to the killer. She was removed from the case on Wednesday after those comments, and the new public prosecutor, Sandra Quiñonez, said she was putting together a team to investigate the killing, according to news reports.
Elida Favole, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office in Asunción, the capital, told CPJ via messaging app that the team includes four prosecutors specialized in investigating drug trafficking and organized crime. When contacted via messaging app, Gen. Ruben Paredes, the police chief of Amambay province, which includes Pedro Juan Caballero, told CPJ that he could not comment on the case.
Insight Crime, a think tank that monitors organized crime in Latin America, has described Pedro Juan Caballero as the most violent city in Paraguay and a base of operations for Brazilian drug-trafficking gangs.
In May, gunmen fatally shot the city’s mayor, José Carlos Acevedo, who was part of a powerful political family in the region and owned Radio Amambay, according to news reports. Pedro Juan Caballero deputy police chief Baldomero Jorgge said at a news conference that by killing Coronel, the masterminds of the crime may have been trying to further attack the Acevedo family.
On February 12, 2020, two masked men fatally shot Lourenço “Léo” Veras, a Brazilian national and the owner and manager of Porã News, a news website covering organized crime on the Paraguay-Brazil border, at his home in Pedro Juan Caballero.