TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduran President Porfirio Lobo on Wednesday offered a reward of more than $150,000 for information leading to the killers of one of the country's best-known journalists, whose body was found nearly a week after he was kidnapped.
"We are doing everything possible to get to the bottom of this and solve this crime," Lobo said in a message broadcast on national television. He offered a reward of 3 million Lempiras ($154,000 dollars).
Police on Tuesday found the body of Alfredo Villatoro, who was news director for RHN radio, one of Honduras' most important radio stations, in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
Villatoro was found shot in the head and dressed in the uniform of an elite police force for unknown reasons. He had been in civilian clothing when seized on May 9, said Security Ministry spokesman Hector Ivan Mejia.
"Everything pointed to a kidnapping because if they had wanted to kill him, they would have done it from the outset," Mejia said.
But Mejia said no ransom request had been received and that the kidnapping could have been done for political reasons.
"It's a direct challenge to the government," Mejia said. "Now we have to find out what message they are sending with these actions."
Mejia said he had been a friend of Villatoro for at least 28 years. Local news media reported the journalist was also close to Lobo.
Villatoro had presented a morning news broadcast for 20 years and was on his way to the radio station when he was kidnapped.
Villatoro hadn't been working on any investigative story, according to his colleagues.
Nahul Valladares, news editor at RHN, said the station has been careful when covering drug trafficking stories, the sort of topic that has led to attack on other reporters.
Police found the body two hours after Lobo told reporters there was proof that Villatoro was alive. Lobo mentioned the journalist's family had received a video recording that proved it. Lobo said Wednesday the family received the video on Saturday.
The government human rights agency says 22 journalists have been killed in Honduras since the start of 2010 and that many others have left the country after receiving treats.
"We're waiting for the government to offer the security guarantees that we journalists need. Measure that should have been taken a long time ago," said Amado Lopez, owner of the television station Channel 36, moments before meeting with Lobo.
Lobo also met with news directors and the owners of media outlets to talk about the security situation.