Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and diplomats from 30 nations are holding a high-profile meeting in Peru this week. But few are paying attention because of a less-welcome visitor: Joran van der Sloot.
Ever since the tall Dutchman emerged as the prime suspect in the May 30 murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, he has been hogging headlines and dominating small talk in this nation of 30 million.
On Tuesday, news of the visiting dignitaries — in town for the annual Organization of American States meeting — was largely buried inside newspapers as van der Sloot's mug and blaring "He Confessed!" headlines dominated covers.
"This doesn't happen all the time in Peru," said Ernesto Esquivel Chavez, 36, who stopped by the police station to see if he could catch a glimpse of Peru's most famous suspect. "If he did kill her, he needs to go to jail forever."
Van der Sloot has been a familiar face in the United States for years after he emerged as the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba. In Peru, however, he was virtually unknown.
"I had never heard of the case before," said Vanesa Bedyoa, a television reporter for Frecuencia Latina. "But since this happened, we have been covering him nonstop. I am so tired of it."
On Tuesday, dozens of reporters congregated at the national police station before dawn amid reports that van der Sloot had confessed to the murder and that police planned to take him to the scene of the crime.
At the TAC Hotel, where the murder took place, staff from dozens of other news outlets -- including CNN and Dutch wire services -- drank coffee and slouched in lounge chairs. Some still wore press badges for the ongoing OAS event on the other side of town.
It's no wonder the case is media catnip. Not only does van der Sloot's history provide fodder for speculation (Flores' murder took place five years to the day that Holloway disappeared), but much of the evidence relies on close-captioned TV footage, which has been in heavy rotation on newscasts.
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