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Peru8 February 2006

Maximum sentences for killers of Alberto Rivera Fernández

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the long prison sentences passed on 7 February 2006 by the Ucayali regional higher court in eastern Peru on five men accused of the murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández in Pucallpa on 21 April 2004.

Contract killer Angel “El Gatillo” Mendoza Casanova and Erwin Pérez Pinedo, the man who hired him, both got 30 years. Two city officials, Roy Culqui Saurino and Martín Flores Vásquez, who contacted a fifth defendant on behalf of the mayor of Pucallpa and asked him to find a hit-man, were both sentenced to 25 years.

The fifth defendant, Tercero González, who turned to his cousin, Pérez Pinedo, for help, was given only 10 years because he cooperated with the prosecution.

In a second trial to be held in March, the defendants will be the alleged instigator, Pucallpa mayor Luis Valdez Villacorta, another municipal official, Jorge Barrantes Aguilar, an alleged gangster, Lito “Chino Lito” Fasabi Pizango, and Solio Ramírez.

12.09.05 - Suspect in Rivera Fernández murder says mayor and investigators involved

Samuel Gonzáles Pinedo, a suspect in the 21 April 2004 killing of Alberto Rivera Fernández, of the radio station Frecuencia Oriental, in the town of Pucallpa, has accused the mayor of Coronel Portillo, Luis Valdez Villacorta, of masterminding the murder. Gonzáles Pinedo, who has been held since 28 May 2004, said on 8 September that two town officials had given him, at the mayor’s request, 500 soles (€ 124) to find people to kill the journalist. The officials (Roy Gavino Cullqui Sorino and Martín Ignacio Flores Vásquez) were arrested and put under investigation on 8 June 2004. But the investigation has since made little progress, which González Pinedo said was because the policeman in charge of the case and the president of the civil division of the higher court in Ucayali, Solio Ramírez, were involved in the murder too.

01.06.2004 - Suspect arrested in murder of Alberto Rivera Fernández

Police in Pucallpa arrested Samuel Gonzales Pineda on 28 May on suspicion of being involved in the murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández.

23.04.2004 - Journalist murdered in Pucallpa

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández on 21 April in Pucallpa in the eastern Ucayali region and called on interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi to ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out to establish the motives and identify those responsible.

Rivera is the second journalist to be killed in Peru in 2004. He was gunned down as he was entering his home, which also houses a shop belonging to the family. Two men who were posing as clients rushed out of the shop and shot him twice in the chest, hitting him in the heart. He died instantly. The shop manager, a relative, nonetheless rushed him to hospital where doctors confirmed that he was dead. Rivera was married and had two children, one still a minor.

He was president of the Ucayali Journalists Federation and presented a programme called "Transparencia" on Radio Frecuencia Oriental. He was known for being very critical of both local and regional officials, especially Luís Valdez Villacorta, the mayor of Coronel Portillo, one of the municipalities that make up the city of Pucallpa.

Rivera had lambasted Mayor Valdez for the way he handed the illegal occupation of state land. Together with an independent parliamentarian, Víctor Valdez Meléndez, he had organised a march in support of the squatters on 13 January in which the protesters ended up invading the town hall and wrecking some of its furniture.

Rivera was also a parliamentary representative for Ucayali from July 1990 to April 1992, having being elected on the Christian Popular Party (PPC) list. Thereafter, he had concentrated on journalism although he was considered a close associate of Valdez Meléndez.

Valdez Meléndez said Rivera had constantly received threats. He also said he believed that Ucayali region governor Edwin Vázquez López and the mayor of Coronel Portillo were behind the murder.

The first Peruvian journalist killed this year was Antonio de la Torre Echandía, who was murdered in Yungay (400 km north of Lima) on 14 February. The leading suspect is the local mayor, who had been criticised on the air by De la Torre.

In this country
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In highly suspicious move, terrorism charges brought against left-wing investigative reporter
11 December - Peru
President says jailed TV host should be freed
19 September - Peru
Death threats made against journalist specialising in highly sensitive investigations
9 September - Peru
Impunity blamed for a new wave of threats and attacks on provincial journalists
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in the annual report
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Peru - Annual report 2006

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