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Paraguay25 October 2006

Drug traffickers said to have murdered journalist and dumped body in river

Volunteer firemen searched the river Ypané in the central department of Concepción for the body of missing journalist Enrique Galeano of Radio Azotey on 21 October after investigators decided it may have been dumped there by the drug traffickers who are suspected of killing him, the online newspaper ABC Digital reported.

The drug traffickers are supposed to have received Galeano from accomplices in the Azotey police force who may have arrested him because of his reporting on the illegal drug trade in Concepción, the newspaper said.

Shortly before his disappearance on 4 February, Galeano covered the seizure of a shipment of cocaine and heavy weapons in the presence of Yby Yaú district prosecutor Camila Rojas, local police chief Osvaldo Núñez and ruling Colorado Party parliamentary representative Magdaleno Silva, who is suspected of being linked to drug trafficking.

The Paraguayan government has until 31 October to provide information about the Galeano case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Organisation of American States (OAS), but it does not have to publish its conclusions until 16 December.

12.10.06 - Union goes to see president about journalist’s disappearance, names its suspects

Reporters Without Borders today said it supported the initiative taken by the Union of Paraguayan Journalists (SPP) in obtaining a meeting on 6 October with President Nicanor Duarte Frutos about radio journalist Enrique Galeano, who has been missing since 4 February.

The SPP delegation, led by its secretary general, Julio Benegas, claimed that Galeano was kidnapped by two policeman from the police station in the town of Azotey in central Paraguay, where Galeano worked for Radio Azotey. This was reportedly done at the behest of local police chief Osvaldo Nuñez and parliamentarian Magdaleno Silva of the ruling Colorado Party.

According to the SPP delegation, Galeano was then handed over for execution by a militia called “Cabeza Branca” (White Head). It is run by a Brazilian, Luis Carlos Da Rocha, who is considered by the police to be a drug trafficker.

Benegas went so far as to accuse Silva of being Cabeza Branca’s political figurehead. He also accused the police of dragging their feet in the investigation and before abandoning it altogether after three months, suggesting his disappearance was linked to an extramarital affair.

9.03.06 - Probe into Galeano’s disappearance grinds to a halt, amid contradictory statements

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today that the local authorities are clearly showing little interest in the 4 February disappearance of Enrique Galeano of Radio Azotey in Hortequa, in central Paraguay’s Concepción region. Fraught with contradictory elements, the investigation seems to have ground to a halt.

There are disturbing differences between the explanations given by interior minister Rogelio Benítez and those offered by a senior official in his ministry, Pedro Benítez, Prior to Galeano’s disappearance, he was assigned a police guard on his home. The interior minister has said neither he nor the local police know why Galeano requested protection. At the same time, a local police official, Osvaldo Nuñez, has denied that Galeano ever received police protection and said he was unaware of any death threats against Galeano.

Galeano’s wife, Bernardina Quintana, insists that all of this is incorrect. It is widely suspected in the region that the local authorities were involved in Galeano’s disappearance and one anonymous witness claimed he saw Galeano being killed, but the allegation has not been investigated.

14.02.06 - Threatened journalist missing for ten days

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about the disappearance of Enrique Galeano, of Radio Azotey in Hortequa in central Paraguay’s Concepción region.

The Paraguayan journalists’ union (SPP) said nothing has been heard from the 51-year-old journalist since 4 February 2006.

“We strongly urge the local and national authorities to deploy all the necessary resources to find Enrique Galeano”, said Reporters Without Borders. “We also call on them to guarantee journalists’ safety more effectively”, the organisation added.

His wife, Bernardina Quintana, said Galeano had received death threats, almost certainly from the local authorities, whose criminal activities he had exposed. A month ago, as a result of the threats, he was given police protection for five days at his home in Yby Yau.

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