Reporters Without Borders called on Costa Rican authorities today to speed up their investigation of the two-year-old murder of radio journalist Parmenio Medina and to produce results.
"Last year, on the first anniversary of his killing on 7 July 2001, we welcomed the official efforts made to find out the truth," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to President Abel Pacheco. "But now, a year later, we are concerned about the lack of clear progress in the case. We especially fear that a raid on 3 July at the home of Minor Calvo, a priest and suspect in the case, was just a show for the media. We call on you to do everything you can to ensure this crime is punished.
"Such a cowardly deed must remain an exception in the history of the Costa Rican media," he said, noting that the journalist’s death was seen as a warning to the country’s investigative journalists.
The murder enquiry
Medina (photo), the well-known presenter of a satirical radio programme, "La Patada" ("The Kick"), on Radio Monumental, was shot near his home, a dozen miles from the capital, San José. A gunman fired three shots at him before fleeing with his accomplices.
The investigation was handed to the prosecutor in Heredia. Medina was reportedly killed by four petty criminals and the local media has reported two of them are in prison in connection with the case. They are Luis Alberto Jaime Aguirre, a Nicaraguan suspected of being directly involved, and Andrés Chaves Matarrita, an accomplice believed to have helped one of the killers get away. Aguirre is said to have been identified by at least five witnesses.
Another of the presumed murderers, César Dionisio ("Nicho") Murillo, was killed in a bank robbery in May last year. The killers were reportedly paid 10 million colones (27,000 euros) to shoot Medina, who had damaging information about a businessman.
A Colombian refugee living in Costa Rica, John Gilberto Gutiérrez Ramírez, was arrested in San José on 23 December last year on suspicion of being a link between the mastermind and the killers. He was reportedly fingered by Murillo’s girlfriend, who said he had taken part in several meetings to plan the murder at Murillo’s home at Campo Cinco, in the eastern town of Cariari de Pococí.
Gutiérrez Ramírez was freed on 26 March this year after his lawyer produced a document showing that Murillo only began renting the house three months after the murder. But on 22 May, the head of the police criminal investigation department, Jorge Rojas Vargas, told the media he doubted the document was genuine.
Medina and Radio Maria de Guadalupe
In his radio programme, Medina regularly denounced corruption using a team of mimics and so won himself plenty of potential enemies. In the months before his death, he had spoken several times of irregularities in the running of the Catholic station Radio Maria de Guadalupe, questioning the source of the station’s funding and the precise role of businessman Omar Cháves in the station. He also reported seeing Minor Calvo, the priest who founded the station, with a young man in a park frequented by homosexuals.
In May last year, after new revelations on his programme about Calvo, Medina received threats and on 9 May shots were fired at his house. He obtained police protection but this ended a month later at his own request. Threats of legal action by Calvo and pressure on the station’s advertisers led Radio Monumental to stop broadcasting controversial parts of the programme. But Medina got a court to order the station to broadcast them. The Colombian-born Medina had lived in Costa Rica since 1969 and presented "La Patada" for 28 years.
On 3 July, police detectives raided Calvo’s home in Cártago (east of San José) and that of his mother in Oreamuno (Cártago province), seizing computer material and accounting records of the Catholic station Radio María de Guadalupe. They took a blood sample from Calvo to compare his DNA with that of the person who wrote threatening letters to the journalist and who left traces of saliva on the envelopes. The raid was carried out after a former employee of the radio station, whose name was not revealed, said he had heard the priest say he wanted to silence Medina.