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Guatemalan presidential critic charged with four crimes

#Guatemalan #presidential #critic #charged #crimes

Guatemalan prosecutors on Monday charged journalist Jose Ruben Zamora with crimes including money laundering and extortion.

Zamora was arrested last week and the offices of El Periodico, a newspaper he founded which accuses key political figures in the country of corruption, were ransacked.

The publication’s staff denounced the actions as retaliation for their past reporting on President Alejandro Giammattei as well as Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whom the United States called “substantial corruption” earlier this year.

Prosecutor Cinthya Monterroso charged Zamora with money laundering, conspiracy, influence activities and extortion.

At the time of his arrest, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told AFP that Zamora was being investigated “not because of his work as a journalist, but as a businessman”.

According to Monday’s indictment, Zamora had asked a banker to help him deposit 300,000 quetzals ($37,500) into the Guatemalan banking system in order to hide the “true origin” of the funds.

At the hearing, prosecutors presented as evidence the cash that Zamora allegedly delivered to the banker by courier.

Monterroso said banker Ronald Garcia told prosecutors that Zamora may have received the money from several businessmen whom he “blackmailed” not to release negative information about them.

Zamora said the case against him was a “staging” by Giammattei and Porras.

The Guatemalan government has distanced itself from Zamora’s arrest, prompting a wave of calls to respect freedom of expression and warnings of attacks on independent media.

In June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights added Guatemala to its list of countries where it found serious human rights violations, an accusation Giammattei denies. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are also on the list.

The prosecution, headed by Porras, has been criticized for arresting and prosecuting several anti-mafia judges and prosecutors.

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