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Sebastian Rotella

Senior Reporter

Photo of Sebastian Rotella

Sebastian Rotella is a senior reporter at ProPublica. An award-winning foreign correspondent and investigative reporter, he worked for almost 23 years for the Los Angeles Times before joining ProPublica in 2010. He covers international security issues including terrorism, intelligence, organized crime, human rights and migration. His reporting has taken him across the Americas and Europe, and to the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Sebastian was co-writer and correspondent for Terror in Europe, a 2016 Frontline documentary that was a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors broadcast/video award. In 2013, his Finding Oscar investigation with This American Life won a Peabody Award, a Dart Center Award, and two awards from the Overseas Press Club. In 2012, he was recognized with Italy’s Urbino Press Award for excellence in American journalism. His A Perfect Terrorist investigation of the Mumbai attacks (with Frontline) was nominated for an Emmy, and the online version of the story got an Overseas Press Club Award in 2011.

In 2006, he was named a Pulitzer finalist for international reporting for his L.A. Times coverage of terrorism and Muslim communities in Europe, which won the German Marshall Fund’s senior award for excellence in European reporting. He was part of a team whose coverage of al-Qaida received an Overseas Press Club award and finalist honors for Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2002. In 2001, he won Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize for his career coverage of Latin America. His work in Latin America also won honors from the Overseas Press Club, Inter-American Press Association and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

At the L.A. Times, Sebastian served as a correspondent at the Mexican border, in South America and in Europe. His border reporting inspired two songs on Bruce Springsteen’s album The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995).

Sebastian is the author of three novels: the forthcoming Rip Crew (March, 2018), The Convert’s Song (2014), and Triple Crossing (2011). He is also the author of Twilight on the Line: Underworlds and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border (1998). He speaks Spanish, French and Italian. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, studied at the University of Barcelona, and was born in Chicago.

The New Border: Illegal Immigration's Shifting Frontier

As the net flow of immigrants from Mexico nears zero, violent and impoverished Central American countries have emerged as the fastest-rising source of illegal immigrants to the U.S. Mexico's southern border with Guatemala — a hotbed of smuggling — highlights the challenges of managing immigration in the years ahead.

How an Accused Guatemalan War Criminal Won U.S., Canadian Citizenship

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes denies any role in the slaughter of 250 villagers at Dos Erres in 1982, but investigators say he concealed his background as an army commando and manipulated the immigration system.

Como un Presunto Criminal de Guerra Logró Hacerse Ciudadano en Estados Unidos y Canadá

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes niega cualquier participación en la masacre de 250 campesinos en Dos Erres en 1982, pero los investigadores dicen que escondió su pasado como comando militar y manipuló el sistema.

The Dos Erres Fugitives

Guatemalan Massacre Survivor Wins Political Asylum in U.S.

As a boy, Oscar Ramírez Castañeda was abducted by an officer in the squad that conducted one of the worst massacres in Guatemala’s civil war.

Immigration Charges For Accused Commando In Dos Erres Massacre

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes had become a U.S. citizen while allegedly concealing his military service and involvement in the infamous 1982 attack that left more than 250 people dead in a remote Guatemalan village.

U.S. Government Pressures Pakistan on Mumbai Terror Group

Treasury Department issued an order against eight leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba that prohibits Americans from doing business with them and freezes assets.

Militant Reaffirms Role of Pakistan in Mumbai Attacks

U.S. and Indian officials say weeks of interrogating Zabiuddin Ansari yielded new evidence that Pakistani intelligence officers helped plan and direct the 2008 terror onslaught that cost six Americans and 160 others their lives.

Before Deadly Bulgaria Bombing, Tracks of a Resurgent Iran-Hezbollah Threat

Bent on avenging attacks on its nuclear program, Iran and Hezbollah have allegedly spun at least 10 terror plots in the past year, most of them failures. With this month's deadly bombing in the beach resort of Burgas, Western counterterror officials say, the Shiite alliance has crossed a dangerous line.

Separated By Massacre, a Father And Son Reunite Three Decades Later

Tranquilino Castañeda believed his son Oscar was dead, killed by Guatemalan Army commandos at Dos Erres. Oscar believed the lieutenant who abducted him was real father.

Slideshow: Oscar's Story

The Faces of Dos Erres

Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala

In 1982 amid Guatemala’s brutal civil war, 20 army commandos invaded the jungle hamlet of Dos Erres disguised as rebels. The squad members, called Kaibiles, cut their way through the town, killing more than 250 people. Only a handful survived. One, a 3-year-old boy, was abducted by a Kaibil officer and raised by his family. It took 30 years for Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda to learn the truth.

$10 Million Bounty for Alleged Mumbai Plotter Ups Pressure on Pakistan

Hafeez Saeed, cofounder of the militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba, remains at liberty in Pakistan, where prosecution has stalled of other alleged planners in the attacks that killed 166 people, including six U.S. citizens.

U.S. Sues To Recover $446 Million From Hezbollah-Connected Firms

The Justice Department says U.S. car buyers were sent at least $329 million to purchase used vehicles shipped to Africa, where they were sold as part of a scheme to launder drug-trafficking profits through Lebanon using security provided by Hezbollah.

Government Says Hezbollah Profits From U.S. Cocaine Market Via Link to Mexican Cartel

U.S. authorities say a Lebanese drug kingpin is at the center of a conspiracy that laundered more than $250 million in drug-related proceeds and sent at least 85 tons of Colombian cocaine through Central America and Mexico in partnership with the Zetas cartel.

Analysis: Alleged Assassination Plot Doesn't Fit Past Iranian Behavior

Plot to kill Saudi ambassador with Mexican drug cartel's help would represent a brazen, new direction for both, which have avoided direct confrontation with the U.S. The case increases concerns about growing activity by Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America.

In An Unusual Criminal Case, the U.S. Points the Finger at Pakistan's Top Spy Agency Again

In an indictment unsealed Tuesday, the FBI accused two men of funneling millions of dollars from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, into political campaign donations and other activities meant to influence American policy on Kashmir.

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