BARCELONA, Spain – The director of Guatemala’s Radio 10, Oscar Rodolfo Castañeda, is in Europe this week to gather support from the international press community after receiving death threats at home for denouncing the alleged financial corruption of an important business group in his country.
Castañeda, in statements to the press in Barcelona, said the death threats he has received were no joke.
Castañeda said an anonymous person called up his call-in radio show last August and said: “By speaking about tax evasion you are digging your own grave.”
The journalist admitted that the chilling words left him “petrified … (and) unable to react” in front of the guests on his show.
Several hours after the phone threat, Vinicio Aguilar, Castañeda’s coworker at Radio 10 who helped with the investigations, was shot in the mouth while jogging in town. Miraculously, he survived.
But the threat and the attack on his colleague has led Castañeda to seek support abroad. He says he doesn’t feel he can count on protection from the Guatemalan government, which he says is supported by the same business groups whose “corrupt” practices he had denounced on the radio.
Castañeda and Radio 10 were echoing the complaint of a union official about the tax evasion practiced by a group of poultry raisers.
After the denouncement, other problems began cropping up: first, a boycott by Radio 10’s sponsors; then judicial actions against Castañeda; and later interference with the radio station’s signal until the concessionaire of the frequency decided to break the agreement he had with the station.
Radio 10 then moved to an AM frequency and also began to broadcast via the Internet, where it kept a faithful and surprisingly large audience, Castañeda said.
Despite the threats and the attack on Aguilar, which some local media dismissed as an incident of common crime, Castañeda, who said he was “very afraid,” decided to keep working at the station along with the rest of the staff.
He recently decided to leave the country, however, when Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman reportedly told him about a death squad that had been formed to kill him.
After visiting Madrid and Barcelona, where he met with different journalism organizations, Castañeda will travel to London to file a complaint with Amnesty International, and will later travel to Mexico, where he will report on the matter to the Inter-American Press Association.