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Venezuela1 August 2008

Threats against business daily’s lawyer and president

The business daily Reporte de la Economía’s lawyer, Giselle Suárez, has told the authorities she has been getting messages warning her that she will be killed if she continues to talk to the media about her investigation into the 2 June murder of the newspaper’s vice-president, Pierre Fould Gerges. The messages also talked of setting fire to the Caracas-based newspaper’s headquarters.

In response to her complaint, Caracas judge Leiby Rojas ordered police protection for Suárez and Reporte de la Economía president Tanous Gerges, the victim’s brother. The authorities had previously announced that all of the newspaper’s staff would be given protection, but no action was taken.

Suárez said at a news conference on 9 June that the investigation was focussing on a group of five bankers, and that the newspaper would publish their names in a special issue the next day. However, the newspaper’s management announced shortly afterwards that it would not go ahead because of external pressure.

Pierre Fould Gerges was gunned down in Caracas on 2 June by a man on a motorcycle. The circumstances suggest the killer mistook him for his brother, who had been receiving threats for several months for denouncing alleged corruption within the national oil company PDVSA.

10.06 - Business daily accuses five bankers of being behind its vice-president’s murder

The management of the Reporte de la Economía daily has accused a network of five bankers of being behind the murder of its vice-president, Pierre Fould Gerges, who was gunned down in Caracas on 2 June.

The newspaper’s lawyer, Gisel Suárez, said at a news conference yesterday that the investigation was focussing on a financial group that “constitutes an appendage of the state, that has created a state within the state.” She added: “The government has nothing to do with this case. It is not a political crime, but a crime against free expression.”

While not confirming this theory, interior minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín meanwhile said the investigation was advancing “very rapidly.”

Reporters Without Borders commented: “The utmost care is required with this case. One of the hypotheses is that the victim was murdered by mistake, that the killers mistook him for his brother, Tanous Gerges, Reporte de la Economía’s president, who was targeted for reasons that remain to be established.”

04.06 - Business daily’s vice-president gunned down in Caracas, brother had received death threats

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to shed light on every aspect of the murder of Pierre Fould Gerges, the vice-president of the Caracas-based business daily Reporte de la Economía, who was gunned down in Caracas on 2 June. The motive is not yet known, but the circumstances suggest the killers mistook him for his brother, Tanous Gerges, the newspaper’s president, who had received many threats in recent months.

“It is obviously too soon to say the murder was clearly linked to the victim’s work as a journalist but we hope the investigators will examine this possibility carefully, especially as the victim’s brother, the newspaper’s president, had been threatened and the newspaper had covered sensitive issues,” Reporters Without Borders said, voicing its support for the Gerges family and Reporte de la Economía’s staff.

Pierre Fould Gerges left the newspaper’s headquarters driving his brother’s car at around 5:30 pm on 2 June and was intercepted soon afterward in the southeastern district of Chuao by two men on a motorcycle, who opened fire 17 times, hitting him in the neck and chest and killing him instantly.

The initial indications are that he was shot by hired hit-men who mistook him for his brother. Reporte de la Economía lawyer Giselle Suárez said Pierre resembled Tanous, who had been receiving threats for the past several months, mostly by email. She said the most recent threat, received two weeks before the murder, referred to a hit-man who had just been let out of prison.

Suárez added that the authorities had not taken any measures to protect Tanous. It was only after Pierre’s murder that the authorities announced that the entire Gerges family would be given protection.

As its name suggests, Reporte de la Economía covers only business news. It had recently published several stories on alleged corruption cases.

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