Guatemalan police on Friday arrested journalist Jose Ruben Zamora and raided the offices of El Periodico, a newspaper he founded which has accused key political figures in the country of corruption.
The publication’s staff denounced the actions as retaliation for its previous reporting on President Alejandro Giammattei, as well as Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whom the United States designated earlier this year for “significant corruption.”
Zamora was arrested at his home in the south of Guatemala City on charges of “possible money laundering,” Juan Luis Pantaleon, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, told AFP.
“It is not for his journalistic work, but as a businessman,” Pantaleon said. As he was transferred to court, Zamora told reporters he was putting himself “at the disposal of justice to see what happens.”
“I imagine there must be a conspiracy, a persecution… and if that is the case, love for Guatemala must be paid with jail,” he added.
The headquarters of El Periodico, which has received international recognition for its work, were raided by police.
In social media posts, the newspaper said the attorney general was “following through on her threats against the president of El Periodico. They will not silence us.”
The Guatemalan Ombudsman Jordan Rodas said Zamora’s arrest was regrettable.
“We are in a very difficult moment. I would not like to think that we are becoming Nicaragua 2.0,” Rodas said, referring to the prosecution and conviction of journalists critical of President Daniel Ortega in recent years.
In June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights added Guatemala to its list of countries where it has noted serious human rights violations, a charge Giammattei rejects. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are also on the list.
The public prosecutor’s office, under the leadership of Porras, has been criticized for arresting and prosecuting several anti-mafia judges and prosecutors.