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Guatemalan journalist threatened after reporting on child abuse

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - Carolina Vásquez Araya, a well-known Guatemalan columnist, and the editor of supplemens for the Prensa Libre newspaper, received death threats after the publication of a column on 1 October 2012. In the piece, she revealed details of sexual abuse committed by a cotton farm manager against the under-age daughters of the farm workers in Escuintla, about 60km outside the capital of Guatemala City.

Vásquez said, via social media, that after the publication of this article she and journalist Ika Oliva, who had written about the case on her blog, had received death threats by e-mail.

“We're going go to tear your family to pieces”, “We're going to hand them over to you in a cotton sack”, “You know we have the money to make all of them disappear, we have connections everywhere”. “Leave what's passed in the past, or you'll ruin the present”, “Don't try to act like an avenger, you'll get it and so will that bitch journalist; in Zacapa we don't fool around”, said the threats.

Vásquez had referred to the case that Oliva, who lives in the USA, had written about on her blog. The manager of the “La Pangola” farm, who is originally from Zacapa, sexually abused the daughters of his workers, who ranged in age from 7 to 14.

The farm manager kept the girls in his cabin for 10 days and then passed them on to his driver, who held them for three more days, before they would be returned to their homes. This went on for decades. Farm workers knew that once their daughters turned seven they would be taken by the employer while they were still virgins.

The death threats against Vásquez and Oliva have inspired outrage, especially from people who know Vásquez's work. The Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists has taken on the case and is investigating the origins of the e-mails.

The Human Rights prosecutor, Jorge de León Duque, condemned the threats offering his support to the journalist, and added that free expression should not be violated.

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