Luis Alberto Perez Barillas, a journalist working in the city of Rabinal, has throughout June 2003 been reporting extensively on the situation surrounding an incident on the 14th of the month in which the current president of Congress, Efrain Rios Montt, a prospective presidential candidate for the ruling party the Guatemalan Republican Front, was forced to abandon a rally, after stones were thrown at the stage. The rally had begun at the same time as a ceremony to re-bury those massacred during the military government’s counterinsurgency strategy of the 1980s. Mr. Montt was in power during the time of the counterinsurgency.
According to the Guatemalan press, at least eight journalists reported being intimidated in the weeks prior to the threats against Mr. Barillas, in what appears to be a systematic attempt to intimidate journalists in the run up to the presidential elections, due to take place in November. Mr. Barillas received two death threats on the 23rd and 24th of June 2003. On July 4th 2003 a home-made bomb was thrown into his home. Nobody was injured in the explosion. On July 5th, Maria del Rosario Perez Barillas, Mr. Barillas’ sister, found a note under the door of her home, threatening that if she failed to keep her brother quiet, her children would be killed. Following these death threats and bombing, Mr. Barillas has left home and is reportedly receiving some protection from the police, but Maria del Rosario Perez Barillas and her children are not receiving any protection.