El Salvador: Gang member sentenced to 30 years for cameraman murder

Gang member Jonathan Martínez Castro was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a San Salvador court on 31 May for the murder of Canal 33 cameraman Alfredo Hurtado. Two gunmen shot Hurtado while he was visiting Ilopango, on the outskirts of the Salvadorian capital, on 25 April 2011. Hurtado had often covered gang member arrests, and it has been reported that the Mara Salvatrucha gang, of which Martínez Castro was a member, had suspected Hurtado had identified two of its members to the police as the murderers of another gangster. Martínez Castro’s alleged accomplice, Marlon Abrego Rivas, is currently a fugitive.


El Salvador: Online newspaper faces government criticism

Last week,  the online newspaper El Faro ran a story on how the Salvadoran government negotiated a truce with criminal gangs, known as “maras”, just before recent midterm elections.  According to El Faro, the recent transfer of dangerous gang leaders from high security prisons to low security facilities was part of the deal. In exchange, the gangs, which contribute much to the high violence statistics in El Salvador, reduced their murder rate, the publication claimed.

But as soon as El Faro published the story all hell broke lose. The mnister of Justice and Security, General David Munguia Payes, held a press conference, to which El Faro was not invited. After denying the existence of a pact between the government and the criminal gangs, the minister said the work of El Faro was dangerous.

El Faro maintained that the job of a news organisation is to question government policies and challenge views held up by the powers at be. However, the outlet added, in weak democracies like El Salvador this could bring on added problems.

Carlos Dada, director of El Faro, said the government has told them they have intercepted messages between gang leaders where they have expressed their dissatisfaction with El  Faro’s reporting. “But the government has not offered us any protection,” he said.

El Faro has been in the eye of the storm since it criticized the selection of military officers to run the police and security offices — something they say is forbidden under El Salvador´s 1992 peace accords, which ended a 12-year civil war.

El Salvador: President supports bill decriminalising libel

Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes has shown his support for a reform bill to decriminalise defamation, but only if certain changes are implemented. Funes, an ex-journalist, has largely supported the decree to substitute the penalty of imprisonment for crimes against public image and privacy, with monetary fines. But the reform, which was approved by the legislative assembly on 8 September, also suggests suspending journalists for up to two years, should they be found guilty of a crime against someone’s honour, and the president has suggested that this condition be removed.

El Salvador: 11 jailed for filmmaker’s murder

A court in El Salvador has convicted 11 people for the 2009 murder of French journalist and filmmaker Christian Poveda. Two gang leaders were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Two other leaders have been jailed for 20 years, whilst the remaining seven face four years in prison. Poveda had made a film about street gang violence in El Salvador. The length of the trial caused consternation in certain quarters, with two days deemed insufficient to reach such a verdict.