GUATEMALA CITY – A retired army captain serving 20 years in prison for the 1998 assassination of a Catholic bishop is trying to intimidate the reporter who wrote about the convict’s apparent ties to President Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala’s El Periodico newspaper said Friday.
Journalist Sofia Menchu was told by an unnamed former Cabinet minister that she “should not have published” stories about Capt. Byron Lima Oliva, the daily said.
The former Cabinet member summoned Menchu for an informal meeting, where he referred to her recent stories about Lima Oliva’s purported “close relations” with the directors of the prison service, Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti.
The articles were accompanied by photos of Perez Molina and Baldetti with Alejandra Reyes, Lima Oliva’s girlfriend and business partner.
Another man entered the room during Menchu’s conversation with the former Cabinet minister, El Periodico said.
“The ex-minister told the reporter that she should not have published those stories ‘because the person who entered was from Byron Lima’s group, and that he came to the place to identify her.’ He told her that he knew Lima and the people around him, and that she ought to ask God to ensure that nothing happens to her,” the daily said.
Guatemala’s prisons chief, Luis Gonzalez, was fired Feb. 16 for having allowed Lima Oliva to leave Pavoncito penitentiary, ostensibly for medical treatment.
Lima Oliva was arrested en route back to the prison and the incident gave rise to media speculation about the extent of his influence over prison officials and politicians.
Bishop Juan Gerardi, 75, was found beaten to death in the garage of the rectory where he lived just two days after a panel he led released a report documenting 55,000 human rights violations during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, most of them committed by the army.
The Rev. Mario Orantes, who was sentenced to 20 years as an accomplice in the assassination, received parole in January.
Another man convicted for Gerardi’s murder, retired army Col. Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, was paroled last July.
Lima Oliva, the son of Lima Estrada, has been turned down twice by the courts in his bid for early release. EFE