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Venezuela Slams Media over Envoy Murder Coverage

CARACAS, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Venezuela's foreign minister slammed "right-wing, tabloid" journalists who he accused on Thursday of launching a dirty campaign to discredit the country after its acting ambassador was murdered in Kenya.

Olga Fonseca was found strangled in a bedroom at her official residence in an affluent Nairobi neighborhood last month, less than two weeks into her posting. A senior Venezuelan diplomat was charged on Monday with her murder.

This week a Kenyan newspaper, The Star, quoted police sources saying embassy staff had been using diplomatic bags to smuggle drugs, and that new procedures put in place by Fonseca might have angered them and contributed to her death. The Star's report was widely repeated by Venezuelan media.

"There are right-wing tabloid media that are morbid, perverse and malicious, and which have launched a dirty campaign against this honorable woman," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said during a visit to China.

Some journalists at home and elsewhere, Maduro added, were using "a tragic, difficult event to engage in a campaign against Venezuela, against the honor of Venezuelan men and women."

His comments were carried in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry in Caracas. Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami also addressed the new allegations this week, saying there were no signs that Fonseca's murder was linked to drug smuggling.

"There is no indication ... pointing to drug trafficking or anything associated with it," Aissami told reporters in Caracas on Tuesday. "There is a theory, which is gaining strength, related to internal personnel problems in the embassy."

Fonseca's arrival had followed the abrupt departure of Venezuela's previous ambassador to Kenya after he was accused by his domestic staff of sexual harassment.

On Monday, Dwight Sagaray, the first secretary at the embassy, was charged with her murder and remanded in custody. His diplomatic immunity has been waived.

Kenyan authorities have also issued an arrest warrant for a friend of Sagaray, Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, in connection with the killing.

Detectives in Nairobi said Hassan, a Kenyan of Somali descent, had "masqueraded" as a Venezuelan diplomat in the past, and was known to have used Sagaray's official vehicle.

In addition, two local security guards at the mansion have been charged with failing to use any reasonable measures to stop Fonseca's murder. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Workers at Fonseca's residence who had complained of sexual harassment by her predecessor had accused her of firing them for refusing to retract the charges they had lodged with the police.

Published on Aug 10th 2012 at 1.31pm