La Paz Murder Mystery

By: Mark Fitzgerald

When a bomb blast killed Teresa Guzman de Carrasco April 10 as she rode home from El Diario‘s offices in La Paz, her shaken husband, Jorge Carrasco Jahnsen, general director and majority stockholder of Bolivia’s oldest and most prestigious daily, declared the “bomb had my name on it.”

In a departure from her routine, Teresa, who edited the women’s section while also serving as executive director, had stayed late at the paper and was driven home in Jorge’s vehicle. Jorge stayed even later because, he explained, he was dissatisfied with the front-page layout. Jorge said he suspected drug dealers angry at El Diario‘s coverage had planned to murder him when they set off the dynamite that killed Teresa instantly and wounded her chauffeur.

The Miami-based Inter American Press Association (IAPA) demanded an immediate investigation. “This is one of the saddest days for the hemisphere’s press because we have lost a great woman and an excellent journalist,” IAPA President Robert Cox, assistant editor of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., said a day after the killing.

But in a stunning development, Bolivian police on May 12 arrested Jorge Carrasco himself for the murder. Five people — including Carrasco’s longtime chauffeur and confidant, Javier Valerio Ch?vez Condori — have confessed to roles in the assassination. Condori said the publisher paid him $13,000 to arrange the murder.

Bolivians have been riveted by the developments, which have all the elements of a Latin American telenovela: charges of murder and infidelity, an ill-starred Kennedylike family feuding to control a venerable business, a suspect protesting his innocence while lying in the hospital from emergency heart surgeries — even a shaman. Boniface Lopez, a yatiri, said Carrasco hired him to conjure something that would throw investigators off his trail.

“It’s an incredible story that gets more complex as it goes on,” Cox said Wednesday, just as he got the results of IAPA’s journalistic investigation into the murder. Argentinean reporter Jorge Elias draws no conclusions about Carrasco’s guilt or innocence, but tells a fascinating story. (The report was scheduled to be available on IAPA’s Web site: http://www.sipiapa.org.)

“This was a police vendetta,” Carrasco, in his hospital bed, told Elias. It’s certainly true that Carrasco and the entire family have had plenty of police attention. In an odd portent of Maria’s assassination, a bomb of unknown origin exploded last January, without causing harm, on the patio of Jorge’s sister, Eliana, who accuses Carrasco of financial improprieties with El Diario. Carrasco’s son, who is now running the paper, also was recently involved in a murky incident in which he ran over two men, one of whom later died.

Prosecutors say Jorge Carrasco, 55, killed out of passion. His chauffeur claims the publisher suspected his wife of 27 years was unfaithful, Elias reports, and first asked Condori to scare her — before changing the order to murder.

“I have no fear because I haven’t done anything,” Carrasco told Elias. “I loved my wife and protected her.”

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