LIMA, Peru – Enrique Zileri, who as longtime director of Peru’s leading newsmagazine defied despotism and battled corruption with stubborn independence, died Monday at age 83.
Under Zileri, Caretas magazine was highly critical of the dictatorships that have afflicted modern Peru, Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa said in a statement, calling him an “indefatigable defender of freedom and democracy” whose weekly “could never be bribed or intimidated.”
Zileri succumbed to complications from throat cancer, his daughter, Drusila, said. Her brother Marco took over as Caretas’ editor in 2007, while she works principally for the weekly magazine’s society-focused sister publication, “Ellos y Ellas.”
Younger Peruvians remember Zileri for fashioning Caretas as a standard-bearer of press freedom in the 1990s as then-President Alberto Fujimori, now imprisoned, put fierce pressure on media independence.
Maintaining that line, said Drusila Zileri, could be “solitary and quixotic.”
Her father’s most epic battles were against military dictator Gen. Juan Velasco, whose government deported him twice — in 1969 to Portugal and in 1975 to Argentina.
The government shut down Caretas six times from 1968-1977, once for nearly two years, said the magazine’s marketing director Katia Ysla Delgado. Enrique Zileri received a three-year prison sentence in absentia and was amnestied when Velasco fell, she added. In 1979, the ruling military junta closed the magazine again, this time for five months.
Caretas was founded by Zileri’s mother, Doris Gibson, in the 1950s. He later took over.
A member of the Inter American Press Association, Zileri was president of the International Press Institute from 1988 to 1990.
He was a 1975 recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia University, for excellence in coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean, and later served as a judge on the committee that determines its annual winners.