Suspects held in Argentine folk star’s death

July 15, 2011

BUENOS AIRES – The body of one of Latin America’s most beloved troubadours, Facundo Cabral, made its final journey back to Argentina on Tuesday, while Guatemala arrested two suspects over his shooting.

Cabral, 74, a nomadic singer and novelist hugely admired in the Spanish-speaking world, was on his way to the main international airport in Guatemala to fly to nearby Nicaragua when carloads of gunmen attacked his vehicle on Saturday.

Officials have blamed the gangs that hold sway in Guatemala and believe Nicaraguan businessman Henry Fariña, Cabral’s promoter, may have been the real target. The motive for the killing was not clear, but officials have hypothesized that gunmen could have mistaken Cabral for their real target, Fariña, who had hired him for the shows and who was driving the car at the time of the attack.

“Everything indicates that the attack targeted Farina and not the singer,” Guatemala’s Interior Minister Carlos Menocal said.

Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz said suspect Elkin Vargas Hernández, arrested Tuesday, led a band of gunmen in three vehicles, while a second suspect, Wilfred Stockes Arnold, who managed one of Fariña’s many nightclubs in the region, is accused of masterminding the attack.

Guatemalan authorities shuttered Fariña’s nightclub Elite while they continued their investigations. Guatemalan officials said they expect more arrests this week.

In Buenos Aires, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said Fariña, who was wounded but survived the attack, “allegedly had links to drug trafficking, prostitution and gambling.”

The broad-daylight attack sent shockwaves through Latin America, taking down one of the region’s undisputed stars and shining a spotlight on the murky underworld of Guatemala’s lawless “maras” or drug gangs.

As Mexico fights its drug trafficking scourge, gangs have increasingly pushed south into countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which have all seen surges in violence they seem almost powerless to stop.

Facundo Cabral

Archive photo of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral during a visit to Costa Rica in 2007.


AFP

Guatemala is now one of the most violent nations in the world with a rate of 50 murders for every 100,000 citizens, more than six times the global average. Some 90 percent of crimes go unsolved.

Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom said Cabral’s ultimate contribution was “to shake consciences, stimulate wills and invite us to unite against organized crime.”

Cabral’s body was flown back to Argentina on Tuesday, accompanied by his widow, Venezuelan psychologist Silvia Pousa.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced three days of national mourning and fans turned up in their droves to pay final respects as Cabral’s coffin was displayed in the Teatro ND Ateneo in the heart of the city.

The closed coffin, lying in state ahead of a cremation ceremony on Wednesday, was draped in an Argentine flag and flowers from fans littered the floor around it.

“His homeland was not Argentina but the entire world,” said Maria del Carmen, 70, on a street jammed with television trucks. “I had to be here. He died for peace and love.”

Amid a regional outpouring of emotion, hundreds of fans kept watch over the coffin of Cabral, who was born in La Plata, south of Buenos Aires, and became a star as part of the 1970s protest music movement.

A global nomad who claimed to have visited 150 countries and said he was deeply inspired by the U.S. poet Walt Whitman, his music was largely about peace, love and everyday pleasures and pain.

His songs include the 1970s hit “No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá” (“I’m Not From Here, Nor There),” and are frequently performed by other Spanish-language performers. UNESCO deemed him “World Peace Messenger” in 1996.

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