On the afternoon of March 8, 2022, an unknown number of unidentified individuals shot and killed Villanueva in a public sports facility in Puerto Barrios, the capital of the Izabal department in eastern Guatemala, according to independent news website Soy502. Villanueva was the owner of and a reporter for Noticias del Puerto, a website and Facebook page that reports on local news and politics in Puerto Barrios, according to independent news website Prensa Comunitaria.
A minor was also wounded in the incident and transported to a local hospital, according to Soy502. The Guatemalan national police opened an investigation into the killing, police spokesperson Jorge Aguilar told CPJ via messaging app, but as of April 1, 2022, no arrests have been made.
Villanueva covered local politics, alleged corruption, and other local news topics in Izabal, and Noticias del Puerto had recently published reporting about crime, security issues, and social protests in the area, according to CPJ’s review of its website.
On October 29, 2021, Villanueva said during a Facebook live that police officers and public prosecutors tried to enter his house by forcing the entrance door open after he reported police violence during a protest of miners.
The Guatemalan Association of Journalists, a local press advocacy group, told Prensa Comunitaria that Villanueva had alleged that he was intimidated by local prosecutors in Izabal, but the association did not provide any further details about the nature of the intimidation or the reasons for it.
The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office did not respond to CPJ’s emails requesting comment on the case. Aguilar did not reply to further questions sent to by CPJ via messaging app.