Palma, a reporter for the local radio station Radio Mayor Otaño and correspondent for the Asunción-based Radio Chaco Boreal, was having dinner at his girlfriend’s home when two armed individuals in camouflage broke in at 10:40 p.m., according to press reports and CPJ interviews. Without saying a word, the two assailants began to fire their weapons, the owner of the house, Aparicio Martínez, told local reporters. Palma was shot in the head, neck, arms, and legs, Vicente Paéz, secretary-general of the Paraguayan Journalists Union, told CPJ. Palma’s companion, Wilma Martínez, was wounded in the leg, according to local press reports.
Palma, 48, a Chilean national, often denounced organized crime, illegal smuggling of gas, and local government corruption in the southeastern province of Itapúa, a colleague at Radio Chaco Boreal, Erico González, told CPJ. Palma had also reported recently on the existence of illegal radio stations in Mayor Otaño, a small city on Paraguay’s border with Argentina, 285 miles (460 kilometers) from Asunción.
The reporter had received death threats for years, González told CPJ, with the anonymous calls intensifying in the month before the slaying. According to a September report from the Inter American Press Association, one of the last text messages Palma received on his cell phone said: “I’ve been hired to kill you, to make you travel, we’ll see each other soon.”
A week prior to his death, Palma announced on the air that he was returning to Chile because of the threats, Paéz told CPJ. Palma had lived in Paraguay since 1991. The reporter also declared he was planning to take information on the mafia that operates in Mayor Otaño to the national television station Telefuturo before he left the country, the Asunción-based daily ABC Color reported.
Colleagues told CPJ they believed Palma was killed in retaliation for his work. Nelson Ramos, the local prosecutor in charge of the case, said he believed it was a revenge killing based on his reporting.