GUATEMALA CITY – A Guatemalan ruling party lawmaker, arrested on suspicion of being the mastermind behind the murder of two journalists in 2015, denied on Saturday the charges against him and said the victims were his friends.
“I’m calm. He who did nothing fears nothing. And I did nothing, that’s why I’m here. In the name of God everything will be cleared up,” Congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez said upon his arrival in court after being arrested this Saturday when leaving his home in the San Bernardino municipality.
Juarez, of the ruling National Convergence Front (FCN), said he “never” ordered the murder of the two journalists as indicated by the investigation being pursued by the Attorney General’s Office and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), but expressed his respect for the judicial process.
The legislator said he knew the two slain journalists, who were his “friends,” and asked to involve reporters from the interior of the country to show that he has “never” had problems with the press, a profession that does “good work.”
The congressman, charged with the crimes of “homicide, attempted homicide and illicit association,” is accused of plotting the murder of two journalists in 2015 when he was mayor of Mazatenango, Suchitepequez, whie recently he has been sanctioned by the United States through the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The arrest warrant against Juarez, 37, banned from leaving Guatemala since he lost his congressional immunity last November, was handed down Friday by the court that will hold a hearing of the congressman at a date not yet established.
According to the investigation, Juarez, who will not resign his position since he trusts he will recover his freedom when he reveals his version of events to the judge, supposedly ordered the murder of Danilo Efrain Zapon Lopez, a journalist with the daily Prensa Libre, out of fear of the investigations he was carrying out against the congressman, and, of which he had already published some excerpts.
Also killed in that shooting attack, which occurred in broad daylight in Mazatenango, was Federico Benjamin Salazar Jeronimo, a journalist who worked for a cable television network.
At the end of December, Juarez was included on the Specially Designated Nationals List of the US Treasury Department, a move that prohibits him from traveling to that country, where his assets have also been frozen and American companies are barred from doing business with him.