Guatemala: attorney kidnapped, journalist killed

Three masked men kidnapped Guatemalan attorney and university professor Gladys Monterroso on March 25 as she was eating breakfast in a restaurant in Guatemala City and held her for 13 hours before leaving her on a street in the Atlántida neighborhood. She said the men burned her with cigarettes, beat her and subjected her to sexual and psychological abuse; at one point they put a pistol in her mouth and said they would kill her. They didn’t demand a ransom.

Monterroso’s husband, Sergio Morales, is the government’s human rights prosecutor (ombudsperson). On March 24, the day before the kidnapping, he released a report, “The Right to Know,” documenting evidence in recently discovered government archives linking officials to human rights violations during the 1960-1996 civil war. “I think there could be something fundamental about the National Police archives or the army archives that is in the process of being declassified,” Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom said in an interview with the South American television network TeleSUR, “and there are people with a commitment to the past who could be worried about the release of these archives.” Secret documents on the structure and functioning of the National Police from 1975 to 1985 were discovered in July 2005.

The New York-based Human Rights First has posted a sample letter to its website demanding an investigation of Monterrosa’s kidnapping. (Human Rights First alert, April 3; Siglo 21, Guatemala, March 31; Prensa Libre, Guatemala, April 1, 2)

On April 1 two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Rolando Santis, a reporter for Telecentro Trece television, and seriously wounded Juan Antonio de León Villatoro, a camera operator. Santis is the fourth Guatemalan journalist killed in the past year; the others were Jorge Mérida, Rubén Bazarreyes and Abel Girón. During the same year 13 journalists were assaulted and 10 received death threats. (Adital, April 2; Univision, April from AFP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 5

See our last post on Guatemala.