Reporters Without Borders

Another suspect arrested in investigation into filmmaker's murder

Another suspect arrested in investigation into filmmaker’s murder

Published on Monday 10 May 2010.
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The Salvadorean authorities have arrested another suspect in their investigation into the September 2009 murder of Christian Poveda, a documentary filmmaker with dual French and Spanish nationality.

The latest detainee is Iván Antonio Leiva, 23, an alleged member of the “Mara 18” gang who was wanted on suspicion of directly participating in Poveda’s murder. Arrested in a San Salvador suburb on 6 May as a result of a tip-off, he is to be tried on a charge of aggravated homicide.

Daniel Cabrera Flores, the “Mara 18” leader who allegedly gave the orders for Poveda’s murder, was arrested last month. Leiva’s arrest brings the number of people held in connection with the murder to 35.


30-04-10 - Police arrest alleged mastermind of documentary filmmaker’s murder

The Salvadorean authorities say they have arrested the gang leader who ordered documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda’s murder. Poveda, who had dual French and Spanish nationality, was gunned down in an outlying district of San Salvador on 2 September 2009.

Accused of various crimes and regarded by the police as one of the main leaders of the “Mara 18” gang, Daniel “El Black” Cabrera Flores was arrested on 20 April in La Campanera, the east San Salvador district where Poveda had been filming the gang. His arrest brings the number of people held in connection with Poveda’s murder to 29.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the commitment to the case shown by the Salvadorean authorities. Now that such a large number of arrests have been made, the authorities must establish what role, if any, each of the detained suspects played in Poveda’s death.

The motive also still needs to be established. Poveda was supporting various projects aimed at reintegrating gang members into society. Although La Campanera residents have said he was regarded a friend of Mara 18, some members of the gang reportedly suspected him of being a police informer.


17.02.2010 - Three more suspects arrested in Christian Poveda murder investigation

The Salvadorean police have arrested three more suspects in the investigation into documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda’s murder on 2 September 2009. Their arrests bring the total number of suspects detained to 28. The police say they think a total of 36 people had a part in the killing of Poveda, who had French and Spanish dual citizenship.

The three latest detainees, all alleged members of the “Mara 18” gang, are Roberto “El Scrapy” Hernández, 24, José Carlos “El Kala” Barahona, 28, and Rafael “Soomby” Parada, 26. The police say they acted as lookouts during the execution-style killing

It is encouraging to see the Salvadorean authorities continuing to work so hard on the case. It nonetheless remains to be seen whether all the suspects really did have a role in Poveda’s murder. Aside from making arrests, the authorities must establish exactly what happened and who within “Mara 18” was responsible.


18.12.2009 - Ten new arrests from within the “Mara 18” gang in probe into Christian Poveda murder Ten members of “Mara 18”, including two women, were arrested in Sopayango, in the San Salvador suburbs on 16 December in connection with the murder of the Franco-Spanish documentary film-maker Christian Poveda. The killing of the photo-journalist, overnight on 2 September 2009, sent shockwaves through the profession. Reporters Without Borders welcomed the commitment of the Salvadorian authorities to solving the case.

These latest arrests bring to 25 the number of those in detention in connection with the murder, five of them arrested in the days following the killing, including one police officer. Ten suspects were already in prison for crimes committed previously.

Charges of “murder”, “collusion with murder” and “forming an armed gang” were put to the ten just-arrested suspects. The prosecutor’s office said that some members of “Mara 18” objected to the way in which they were portrayed in Poveda’s film, “La Vida Loca” (Crazy Life). Some gang members also reportedly believed that Poveda had given police information about them.


Five suspects arrested in investigation into filmmaker’s murder

Reporters Without Borders notes the rapid progress apparently being made in the investigation into the 3 September murder of Franco-Spanish filmmaker Christian Poveda. The Salvadorean police announced yesterday that three gang members and a police officer suspected of being a gang ally have just been arrested for his murder.

They also announced that a fourth gang member arrested a few days ago in connection with another case is now also being treated as a suspect in Poveda’s murder, while an alleged senior gang leader already jailed in connection with other murders is suspected of ordering the Poveda murder from his prison.

“It is encouraging to see the Salvadorean criminal police giving their full attention to the case even if the guilt of the suspects remains to be confirmed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Before the stir created by Poveda’s murder fades, it is important that the authorities demonstrate that the maras, these violent street gangs, are not always above the law.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The presence of policeman among the suspects is shocking, especially as Salvadoreans have more need of their security forces than ever to maintain law and order. We urge the authorities to continue acting with the same rigour until the case is fully solved and we hope those responsible will receive they punishment they deserve.”

According to the online newspapers El Faro and El Salvador, the three latest “mareros” (gang members) to be arrested for Poveda’s murder are Roberto Luis Romero Vásquez, also known as El Tigre, Calixto Rigoberto Escobar, aka El Toro, and Miguel Ángel Ortiz, aka El Cholo, while the marero who was arrested a few days earlier for another crime is José Alejandro Melara, aka El Puma.

The policeman arrested on suspicion of complicity and conspiracy was named as José Napoleón Espinoza, an officer assigned to the 911 emergency phone system in Soyapango, near the capital. The gang member suspected of masterminding Poveda’s murder is Nelson Lazo Rivera, a detainee in Cojutepeque prison.

According to statements taken by the police, the police officer Espinosa, himself an alleged Mara 18 gang member, told mareros that Poveda was a police informant and had provided the police with videos, photos and personal details about certain gang members and where they hid their guns.

As a result of this information, Nelson “Fantasma” Lazo Rivera, a Mara 18 section chief in La Campanera, an area outside the capital, allegedly sent word to Poveda to come to a meeting on 30 August to defend himself against the charges. If they had been confirmed, gang members would have assigned to killing him and burying the body.

Poveda did not go to the meeting and, according to the police, this confirmed the allegations in the eyes of the mareros. Poveda finally went to La Campanera on 2 September and was seen to leave in a car with several individuals towards the place where his body was found. The police said the killers forgot to bury his body as originally planned.

Despite Espinoza’s allegations, many residents of La Campanera have said Poveda was regarded as a “friend” by Mara 18. As well as his documentary about the gang, La Vida Loca, he supported Mara 18 in various projects including the creation of bakery that would provide gang members with a way of transitioning into non-criminal activity.

(Photo: AFP)

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