Man sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder of Guatemalan journalist, but acquitted in killing of a second reporter

A Guatemalan court sentenced Sergio Waldemar Cardona Reyes to 30 years in prison for the 2015 murder of journalist Danilo López.

However, Cardona Reyes was absolved of the murder of reporter Federico Salazar and the attempted assassination of Marvin Túnchez, which occurred at the same time López was killed, according to the Center of Informative Reports on Guatemala (Cerigua, for its acronym in Spanish).

Germán Amilcar Morataya received a two-year sentence for use of an assumed name, but was acquitted of murder and illicit association, according to El Periódico. Artemio de Jesús Ramírez was also acquitted of illicit association.

López, a reporter for Prensa Libre, and Federico Salazar, a reporter for Radio Nuevo Mundo, were fatally shot on March 10, 2015 while covering a government event in Mazatenango in the department of Suchitepéquez. Marvin Túnchez, a reporter for a local channel, was injured in the attack.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office said López was the target of the hit, according to Prensa Libre. The same office said in a press release that the analysis of telephone records, as well as criminal and police reports, were presented at trial.

Also being prosecuted in the case are Jorge León Cabrera Solís and Luis Emerio Juárez Pichiyá, agents of the National Civil Police who, according to investigations, coordinated the attack, Prensa Libre reported.

The publication added that the prosecutor said the criminal structure behind the murders involved hitmen charged with planning the murders. “According to wiretaps and information from an effective collaborator, the crime would have been agreed upon for Q25,000 (about US $3,400),” the newspaper said.

In March 2016, the murders of both López and Salazar were transferred to the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI for its initials in Spanish).

And, in January 2017, the Public Prosecutor and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) requested a preliminary trial for congressman Julio Juárez Ramírez “for being the alleged intellectual author of the murders of” López and Salazar.

Preliminary investigations allege that Juárez Ramírez saw López “as a threat to the consolidation of his candidacy as a district congressmen and as questioning his power in the area,” according to CICIG.

Cerigua reported that the pretrial against Juárez Ramírez has not advanced in the Supreme Court.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.