Report to the Midyear Meeting
March 6 – 9, 2015
A murder plunged the press into mourning in the last six months amid investigations into
the murder last year of ABC Color newspaper reporter Pablo Medina and his assistant Antonia Almada, both of whom had put in evidence that democratic governance was being threatened by drug trafficking cartels that has permeated the structures of the political parties and the three branches of government.
On March 5 the murder was committed of radio reporter Gerardo Servián, aged 45, in the Brazilian town of Ponta Porá, separated from the Paraguay town of Pedro Juan Caballero by the international avenue. Servián worked at a radio station in Zanja Pyta, six miles from Pedro Juan Caballero was returning to there on his motorcycle when he was shot by two hitmen on another motorcycle. Reasons for the crime are so far unknown.
Meanwhile, the murder of Medina, aged 53, and Almada, 19, on October 16, 2014 in the town of Curuguaty, gave rise to massive protest demonstrations by the press and various civil bodies. For the Attorney General's Office it was proven that the then mayor of the town of Ypejhú, Vilmar Acosta Marques, aged 39, currently at large, was understood to be the mastermind of the crime. The phenomenon of the drug politics might explain how Acosta could hide the vehicles (a Health Ministry ambulance among them) in which drugs were transported, facts that seem to indicate evident complicities between politicians, officials and members of the security apparatus with the drug traffickers.
In October Acosta Marques, his brother Wilson Acosta and his nephew Flavio Acosta were charged with intentional homicide and criminal association. The former mayor was arrested on March 4 in the Brazilian town of Naviral, some 160 miles from the border With Paraguay. The other two remain at large.
Also under arrest is Acosta's driver, Arnaldo Javier Cabrera López, aged 37, said to be one of the accomplices, now a protected court witness after declaring that Vilmar Acosta ordered the murder.
Following the double homicide the Judiciary, the Attorney General's Office and the National Police promised to solve the crime. Congress named a committee headed by Senator Arnoldo Wiens of the Republican National Alliance (ANR) to follow up the judicial and police investigations. These concluded that the then mayor of Ypejhú was the mastermind, with his brother and nephew the perpetrators. The motive was believed to be Medina's reports about links of the "Acosta clan" with drug dealers and mafia in the border area. In a raid on Acosta's property tons of marijuana were found, ready to be sold.
A march called by reporters, news photographers and employees of the newspaper ABC Color in repudiation of the withdrawal of Medina's bodyguard before his murder by government security agencies sought to get to the presidential palace but it was stopped.
Since 2010 Wilson Acosta Márquez had been under an arrest warrant on a charge of intentional homicide and illegal arms possession in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. In addition, prosecutor Ninfa Mercedes Aguilar in 2011 had also charged him with murder. According to a police description he was a thug working in the service of his brother, the former mayor of Ypejhú.
The former mayor was charged with intentional homicide in 2011 after hair and bones were found in a grave in the patio of the home of his father, Vidal Acosta. Following his arrest he was granted a reversal of his imprisonment by the appeals court in Salto de Guairá, made up of justices Venancio López (chairman), Rosalinda Guens and Justo Pastor Benitez (members). The prosecutor had then complained of the interference of court secretary and superintendent of Alto Paraná and Canindeyú, Víctor Núñez, and Appeals Court chairman López, who had met some days earlier with local judge José Benítez.
In December the ANR member of Congress for San Pedro province Freddy D'Ecclesis submitted a constitutional rights petition to Judge José Delmás for the courts to prohibit the media from publishing information about the alleged links of his family with drug traffickers. The petition against the news media was his reaction to numerous press investigations made since Medina's murder concerning drug dealings. Criminal court judge Delmás rejected the request saying that it had not been established what right or what constitutional guarantee had been violated by the media and that in addition while it was true that there could be publications that affect a person if this is done through press freedom, in a conflict between these two constitutional rights what should be pre-eminent is the one that most falls to the general interest. D'Eccelesis' lawyer did not appeal the petition. The measure remained intact.
In January journalist Higinio Ruiz Díaz, ABC Color correspondent in the city of San Antonio, was summoned to the local public prosecutor's office over telephoned threats received by his family. The calls were made both to his home and to that of his mother-in-law. It is thought possible that they are related to published reports on cases of smuggling of fuel.
In January the home of Osvaldo Luis Aveiro Riberos, aged 52, and the offices of his community radio station in Santa Rosa del Mbutuy, Coaaguazú province, was set on fire. The police detained a suspect who had been seen by a number of neighbors running away from the place. In his radio program Aveiro had criticized some local officials.
Also in January journalist Gilberto Luis Ruffinelli Maidana, aged 52, a resident of Paraguarí and host of the program "Sin Censuras" (Without Censorship) broadcast by Radio 94.9 Yvyty Roke FM in Sapucai reported he had received threats. He said that for several days he received threats in reprisal for his exposures of drug trafficking.
In February police non-commissioned officer Eusebio Ávlos received a death threat for having information about activities of a group devoted to trafficking in cattle. He was working at the Ypejhú police station and was one of the key people in the investigation into the double murder of the ABC Color correspondent and his assistant.