A Welcome Conviction in 1988 murder of Peruvian Journalist

This photo of Hugo Bustíos was taken minutes before he was killed in 1988. (Caretas)

By Committee to Protect Journalists

HAVANA TIMES – A Peruvian court on Thursday, April 13, convicted Daniel Urresti—a former presidential candidate, interior minister, and congressman—and sentenced him to 12 years in prison for his role in the 1988 murder of journalist Hugo Bustíos, news reports said.

Urresti, 66, a retired army general, was convicted of taking part in an ambush that killed Bustíos and wounded reporter Eduardo Rojas. Both were covering the conflict between government troops and Shining Path guerrillas. After the sentence was read on Thursday, Urresti was led out of the Lima courtroom in handcuffs, news reports said.

“The sentencing of Daniel Urresti for the murder of journalist Hugo Bustíos is an important step toward ending impunity for crimes against the press in Peru, and a powerful reminder of the long and painful road for families seeking justice,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “The family and colleagues of Hugo Bustíos finally have a measure of closure, though nearly 35 years later.”

Bustíos, 38, was a reporter for Caretas, Peru’s most influential newsmagazine, and president of the National Association of Journalists in the war-ravaged Andean Mountain town of Huanta. He often wrote about human rights abuses committed by both the army and the guerrillas.

Bustíos was killed on November 24, 1988, in an ambush on the outskirts of Huanta where Urresti was serving as an army intelligence officer. The attack was initially blamed on Shining Path rebels but allegations soon emerged that Bustíos and Rojas were deliberately targeted by an army patrol.

For years, the case bounced between military and civilian courts, but in 2007, the commander of the Huanta military base and another officer were found guilty of killing Bustíos. In 2011, one of the convicted officers implicated Urresti, who in 2015 was formally charged with murder. Three years later, a court cleared Urresti, but Peru’s supreme court in 2019 overturned that ruling and ordered a new trial, which concluded Thursday with his conviction.

CPJ, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Justice and International Law brought the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in 1997 found the Peruvian state responsible for the murder of Bustíos.

Despite his connection to the killing, Urresti served as Peru’s interior minister between 2014 and 2015, twice ran for president, and was nearly elected mayor of Lima last year.

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