Reporters Without Borders today voiced shock and dismay at the death of prominent journalist Hugo Arce, 56, who was found dead in a Guatemala City hotel room with a bullet through his heart. He worked for the monthly magazine ¿Y Qué?,
Police said after preliminary investigations that suicide was the most likely cause of death, but his family said they did not rule out murder.
The worldwide press freedom organisation expressed its condolences to the family and urged the local authorities to carry out an impartial investigation.
Hugo Arce arrived at the Hotel Conquistador at 5am on 23 January and asked for a room. Four hours later his wife arrived bringing some medication but got no reply from her husband and asked hotel staff to force the door. The journalist's body was lying on the bed, with a blood-stained towel around his chest and his own revolver in his right hand.
He was an award-winning writer and a former contributor to El Gráfico, Siglo Veintiuno and El Imparcial. Since the candidature of current president Álvaro Colom to the presidency in 2003, he had written articles highly critical of his person. First lady, Sandra Torres Colom, started a lawsuit against him in December for “insults and defamation”. The case had been due to open in a few days time.
“We are saddened at the death of Hugo Arce, one of the leading figures in the Guatemala press, whose biting and always controversial articles will not be forgotten. Even though suicide seems likely we ask the police not to immediately rule out any lead, including any link with his work,” the organisation said.