HAVANA TIMES – Ecuadorian authorities should conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting death of journalist Gerardo Delgado Olmedo and determine whether the killing was related to his work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On August 10, two gunmen shot and killed Delgado while he was in his car stopped at a traffic light on the outskirts of the Pacific coast city of Manta, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Shortly before the shooting, Delgado had received a call informing him of a possible suicide—a report that turned out to be false—and was on his way to investigate, according to news reports.
Ricardo Lucas, fire chief of nearby Montecristi, told reporters that Delgado’s 19-year-old daughter was also in the car, but was unhurt in the shooting. Police later that night detained two suspected gunmen, one of whom said that he was to have been paid $2,000 for killing Delgado, according to news reports.
“We are shocked by the brazen killing of journalist Gerardo Delgado in broad daylight in Manta and urge Ecuadorian authorities to fully investigate whether he was targeted for his work,” CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick said in New York. “While we are glad to see that authorities have acted swiftly to identify the gunmen, they must continue investigating to identify the masterminds and motive behind Delgado’s murder.”
Delgado, 39, posted videos about crime and neighborhood news on a Facebook page that he founded called Ola Manta TV. Rody Vélez, a Manta journalist and close friend of Delgado, told CPJ that Delgado sometimes criticized the Manta city government for the lack of streetlights, garbage collection, and other public services in poor neighborhoods. Due to such reporting, Vélez said that Delgado was well-known in Manta and considered running for a city council seat in local elections scheduled for next year.
“He was very passionate in his reports, and he always defended the victims,” Vélez told CPJ.
Ecuador’s Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo tweeted that authorities were trying to determine the motive for the crime, which is under investigation by the attorney general’s office.
César Ricaurte, director of the Quito-based press freedom group Fundamedios, told CPJ that since July, two Ecuadorian media workers—including Delgado—have been killed and that a third journalist remains missing after his abandoned car was found in a ditch. Ecuadorian authorities are investigating those other two cases, according to Ricaurte, but have failed to clarify whether the victims might have been targeted in relation to their reporting.
Ricaurte added that violent crime in and around Manta is rising in part due to disputes between drug-trafficking groups who are increasingly using Ecuador’s Pacific coast to export cocaine. There was no response to CPJ’s text messages and emails to Manta City Hall and the Manta police. The press department of the attorney general’s office said in an email that it could not comment on the ongoing investigation into Delgado’s death.