A provincial journalist, Enrique Galeano, who vanished in February 2006, was found unharmed in Brazil 17 months later. But the media is still having a hard time, especially in the run-up to the April 2008 general elections. A journalist was killed after reporting on the influence of drug-smugglers in political life.
Journalist Enrique “Kike” Galeano, of Radio Azotey in the central province of Concepción, was found unharmed in a suburb of São Paulo on 15 July 2007, a year and a half after he disappeared in February 2006 soon after reporting on the seizure of a cocaine and arms shipment in the presence of a police commissioner and a member of parliament for the ruling Colorado Party, both suspected of having contacts with Luiz Carlos da Rocha, the notorious head of Brazil’s Cabeza Branca cartel. The authorities had dredged rivers in an effort to find Galeano’s body. He was found by two colleagues from the Asunción daily ABC Color.
The night he vanished, he said he was picked up on the road by two Portuguese speakers who apparently belonged to the Cabeza Branca. He was beaten and tortured and warned that his wife and children would be harmed. He was then taken to the border town of Pedro Juan de Caballero, and then Campo Grande (in Brazil), where he was freed with a warning that if he returned to Paraguay he would be killed. Fearing for his family, he went into hiding in Saõ Paulo. No serious investigation has been done into the case and who was behind his enforced exile. The Colorado MP involved, Magdaleno Silva, has said he will sue the national journalists union. Galeano and his family have gone to live abroad.
A media denigrated and under threat
Another journalist investigating drug-trafficking and its influence in politics, Chilean Tito Palma, 48, who worked for community radios Radio Mayor Otaño (in the southern town of the same name) and Radio Chaco Boreal (in Asunción), was shot dead on 22 August by two hooded gunmen as he ate in a restaurant with his wife and father-in-law in Mayor Otaño. He had been banned from broadcasting for a time and then deported, after which he managed to get a Paraguayan residence permit. He had received anonymous death threats and, just before he was killed, had managed to track down their origin with the help of a Radio Chaco Boreal collegue, Victor Benítez. Benítez and another journalist at the station, Vladimir Jara, also got death threats and their phones were tapped by the national anti-narcotics service, SENAD, after reporting corruption inside the service.
Some politicians, especially in the provinces, openly target journalists for reprisals or death threats, like those received by two correspondents for ABC Color in October as the campaign began for the 20 April 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections. President Nicanor Duarte Frutos’s accusation, on 12 November in eastern Paraguay, that “the enemy is not the opposition but anti-Colorado journalists and media-owners who thrive by sucking the blood of the people” kept tension high, though he back-pedalled a little at a press conference later. Duarte Frutos cannot run for re-election but the Colorado Party, in power for 60 years, is expected to win yet again.