Peru - El Comercio reporter threatened by drug kingpin's henchmen

    MONTREAL, Feb. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders appealed today
for more vigilance from the authorities, especially the interior ministry,
following telephone threats against Miguel Ramirez of the Lima-based daily El
Comercio. Ramirez was also accused of "extortion" on 22 February by Luis
Davila, a detainee charged with drug trafficking who is believed to be in the
pay of convicted drug kingpin Fernando Zevallos. "Ramirez has been covering
the activities of Fernando Zevallos for more than 10 years and the fact that
Zevallos is currently in prison does not prevent his networks from operating,"
the press freedom organisation said.
    "It is dangerous for journalists to cover drug trafficking. Ramirez's
situation and that of the entire El Comercio staff require more vigilance from
the relevant authorities," the organisation added. "We also hope the judicial
authorities will quickly shed light on these extortion allegations, which were
clearly made with the aim of discrediting Ramirez."
    Referring to drug traffickers yesterday in a phone call with Reporters
Without Borders, Ramirez said, "I have for some time had the feeling that they
have begun watching me again." Five days ago, he got two calls at the
newspaper warning that "the next one to be ripped apart will be this dog
Ramirez." He said he immediately linked this to the discovery two weeks ago of
two dismembered bodies. One of the victims was the cousin of a detainee who is
a prosecution witness against Zevallos.
    Ramirez arranged a meeting on 22 February with Davila in the prison where
he is being held in Huamanga, in the southwestern Ayacucho region, because
Davila had promised to give him information implicating Zevallos, his alleged
boss. But when Ramirez arrived for the meeting, Davila backed down and, in the
presence of two prison guards, accusing him of trying to extort money.
    A prosecutor, Oscar Nunez, who was summoned to the prison, said there was
no evidence to support Davila's accusations. Ramirez told Reporters Without
Borders: "This was a trap set by the drug traffickers, I have no doubt about
that." Ramirez has been covering Zevallos since 1995 and was already the
target of death threats and extortion allegations in 2004. The former owner of
the Aerocontinente airline, Zevallos is suspected of being Peru's most
powerful drug baron. The Supreme Court last year upheld his 20-year prison
sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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