San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Acclaimed Show Revisits La Penca

WHEN Ignacio Sánchez attended the Costa Rican Journalists’ Association awards Tuesday night, he was reminded of the value of his work, and not just because he received an award for his locally produced show “Protocolo 84.”The event made him even more aware that there are young reporters in Costa Rica, some of whom were at the awards, who have never heard of the bombing of La Penca, a tragic episode in Costa Rican and Nicaraguan history and the topic of the latest episodes of Sánchez’s show, which reviews and analyzes extraordinary local crimes from the past two decades.It is not just reporters who should never forget La Penca, according to Sánchez. It is in the nation’s interest to remember the violent tragedy that left four dead and more than a dozen other reporters, many of whom were Costa Rican, scarred for life when the remote jungle camp of an anti-Sandinista leader in La Penca, Nicaragua was bombed 21 years ago.WITH the bombing still unsolved and fingers pointing everywhere from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Sandinistas, Sánchez made his La Penca episodes based on the notion that if justice was never served, people should know it.“Nothing ever happened; no one was ever arrested; no political intention to get it solved has ever been demonstrated,” Sánchez said. “The goal of journalists in their jobs is to get justice where it is due, but they have not been able to get justice in a case where they were the victims. Thiscase cannot be forgotten.”Hours before Tuesday’s award ceremony, the Journalists’ Association announced it has filed a case with the Inter-American Human Rights Court against the Costa Rican government for failing to bring justice in the case.SÁNCHEZ, 36, was just a teenager when the bombing took place, but says he “lived” La Penca because his father was then editor of the daily La Nación. “I was very affected by the whole story,” he said.The bombing was widely considered an assassination attempt on Nicaraguan rebel leader Edén Pastora, who called the press conference at La Penca, on the banks of the San Juan River.More than 20 reporters traveled from San José to attend the May 30, 1984 conference, including the bomber, who posed as a photojournalist. Moments after the conference began in the camp’s stilt house, the bomb went off, ultimately killing four, including Tico Times reporter Linda Frazier, two employees of Canal 6 and a radio operator for Pastor’s rebel group. Despite 21 years of investigation, primarily by private citizens, including some of the bomb’s survivors, doubts still remain as to the bomber’s identity, and entirely cloud the identity of the bombing’s mastermind.MOST believe that either the Sandinistas or the CIA, which Pastora rejected by refusing the join the U.S.-backed Contra groups to the north during Nicaragua’s war-torn ’80s, masterminded the attack. However, some have come to the conclusion that although the two organizations make strange bedfellows, both were involved.Protocolo 84 explains these facts but also goes beyond them by presenting a dramatization of what preceded the event, such as when the bomber entered the country, and presenting the historical context. It also attempts to provide analysis of the crime, although Sánchez admits that, like thousands of hours of investigation before it, the program comes to no certain conclusions.The show is in two segments and will air on Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27 and Oct. 4. The show will also be rerun on Saturdays at 9 p.m. starting Oct. 22. (See the Weekend section of next week’s Tico Times for a personal report on the filming from cast member and TT staff member Susan Liang.)

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