TEGUCIGALPA (AP) – A Honduran journalist known as a harsh critic of President Juan Orlando Hernández died on Saturday of COVID-19 in a hospital after he apparently caught it in prison where he was serving a defamation sentence.
The National Cardiopulmonary Institute confirmed the death of the director of Radio Globo, David Romero, due to respiratory failure associated with the new coronavirus. Romero had been in prison since March 2019, when Honduran police broke down the door of the radio station to enter and arrest him.
The defamation was decriminalized in Honduras under a new law that came into effect in June and Romero could have benefited and be released.
Former President Manuel Zelaya wrote on his Twitter account that “the death of David Romero is a murder of the JOH regime”, the initials of the current president Juan Orlando Hernández. “An unjust sentence was issued and he was not to be released from prison until he became infected with COVID-19.”
The Honduran College of Journalists mourned Romero’s death via Twitter. He stated that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had requested the journalist’s prompt release.
In 2015, Romero reported a diversion of resources from the Social Security system to Hernández’s electoral campaign.
Romero was jailed due to a report on Sonia Inez Gálvez Ferrari, wife of former Attorney General Rigoberto Cuéllar. The journalist was convicted in 2016 because he allegedly slandered Gálvez, who as a prosecutor in 2005 had obtained a conviction against Romero accused of raping his own daughter. Romero was later released.
Romero had repeatedly denounced Hernández and his family for being allegedly involved in corruption and drug trafficking.
When he was forced into a police vehicle during his arrest in 2019, Romero held the president responsible in the event that he was killed.
Federal prosecutors in the United States obtained last year in New York that Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was found guilty of drug trafficking. Prosecutors argued that the president financed his political rise in part with drug money. The president is not accused and rejects those claims.
President Hernández was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June and was released from a hospital earlier this month.