After being pardoned for libel, owner of Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo arrives in Panama, where he has been offered asylum

After being offered asylum in Panama to avoid a $40 million libel lawsuit and three years in prison, one of the owners of the Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo, Carlos Pérez Barriga, arrived in Panama on Saturday, March 3, and met with the country's chancellor, Roberto Henríquez, reported the news agency Ansa Latina. Pérez had sought refuge in the Panamanian embassy in Quito, Ecuador, on Feb. 16.

Despite Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa pardoning Pérez and the other journalists in the El Universo case, in an interview with the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, Pérez said that the pardon was not sincere, but rather was done in mockery. Press freedom organizations also have cast doubt on Correa's pardon, saying that it does not necessarily mean "that the Ecuadoran government will reverse its policy of constant and systematic harassment against journalists," reported IFEX.

According to the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, Pérez said he is willing to meet with Correa, but he will not return to Ecuador as long as the president keeps insulting him, his brothers, and ex-columnist Emilio Palacio, who has sought political asylum in the United States.

Although Pérez and his brothers, Nicolás and César, who also are are in Panama, have not said whether they will remain in the country, the chancellor Henríquez said that Pérez is able to come and go as he pleases just as any other tourist, reported the Mexican newspaper Provincia.