Nicaragua: journalist flees country after death threats over “re-contra” reportage

Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario said Sept. 24 that one of its reporters, Silvia González, has fled to the United States following threats from supporters of the ruling Sandinista party. National Police spokesman Fernando Borge told Channel 12 TV that the case “had been investigated and she was given police protection.” But González said in a call from Miami, told AP: “I am afraid that they will kill me…and that is why I left.” The director of El Nuevo Diario, Francisco Chamorro, said the newspaper had complained to international press freedom groups about the threats. González said she had received menacing telephone calls and ext messages, including one that said, “Keep bothering us, we give you 48 hours to live.” A severed chicken head with her name on it was also reportedly thrown onto González’s patio.

The newspaper also said that in July, a local party member at González’s hometown of Jinotega known as “El Pajarito” (Little Bird), approached her 24-year-old daughter and told her, “Tell your mom to be careful because we are going to pass her the check, and we are going to give it to her where it hurts most.” González filed a complaint with the local police, who arrested El Pajarito on Aug. 4, but then released him for lack of evidence after he denied the charges.

González said the threats began following her coverage of the death of JosĂ© Gabriel Garmendia, a former Contra rebel leader who fought Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s and launched a new uprising last year over President Daniel Ortega’s plans to seek re-election. Garmendia was killed Feb. 12 in Jinotega by the Nicaraguan army, under disputed circumstances. Authorities described him as a common criminal, dismissing reports of a “re-contra” insurgency. Ortega’s candidacy in the Nov. 5 election has been controversial; a constitutional a ban on consecutive re-election was overturned in a Supreme Court ruling last year. (Nuevo Diario, Sept. 25; AP, Sept. 24; Committee to Protect Journalists, Sept. 21; Nuevo Diario, Sept. 20; Nicaragua News Bulletin, July 27, 2010)

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