Argentine journalist says wife was attacked for his reports

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The two assailants who broke into the home of Argentine journalist Sergio Hurtado said they were sent to kill him.

Instead, Hurtado says they stole his money, sexually abused his wife while keeping a knife to his neck and left with a message: "Don't keep reporting about drugs."

Hurtado, the owner and lead journalist of local station FM Radio Luna in San Antonio de Areco, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires, described the attack and what led up to it in during a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The AP does not normally identify victims of sexual abuse, but Hurtado and his wife have spoken publicly about the attack.

Hurtado's account corroborates what Argentines, from Pope Francis to President Mauricio Macri, have been warning the last year: the South American nation's drug trade has increased drastically, and urgently needs to be combatted.

Over the last few years, Hurtado said he began noticing young men standing on street corners in San Antonio de Areco, a touristy city of about 30,000 people where barbecues and cowboy shows are popular.

Hurtado said the men were obviously selling drugs, but were rarely arrested. He said his reports looked at what the traffickers were peddling — mostly cocaine — and raised questions about why the men could stand on the streets while police did nothing.

"The local government stopped buying ads (from the radio station), and I started to feel pressure from officials" to tone down his reporting, he said.

When two men broke in through the kitchen window around 4 a.m. Friday, Hurtado said they went straight to the bedroom. One had a gun, the other a large knife, and both were inebriated.

The 43-year-old father of two said one of the men announced they were there to kill him. However, after much back and forth, the assailants decided not to shoot the couple. It was in that time that the abuse of his wife happened.

"I felt so helpless in not being able to protect my family," said Hurtado, his voice cracking. "We are lucky that they didn't kill us. But if they were put in front of me now, I would want to kill them."

Police have arrested two suspects, identified as 18-year-old Miguel Angel Parana and 21-year-old Santiago Leiva. They are being held while the case is investigated.

Hurtado said his family since has been given full-time police protection. And Cristian Ritondo, the province's security minister, has promised to investigate who might have sent the assailants. Like Macri, who was inaugurated last week as part of the nationwide change of government, Ritondo has been in the job less than a week.

Carlos Lauria, Americas coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said attacks on reporters in Argentina are rare compared to other Latin American countries like Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.

He said such attacks usually happen in rural areas when reporters are investigating local crime or drugs.

"Reporting on drug trafficking in Latin America is a very dangerous beat," he said.


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