Costa Rican suspect in Argentine singer’s death arrives in Guatemala

March 14, 2012

GUATEMALA CITY – The prime suspect in the murder of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral arrived early Wednesday in Guatemala to stand trial for the crime, hours after his plane from Colombia was turned back.

Alejandro Jiménez, a Costa Rican national known as “El Palidejo” (Paleface), left Bogotá on Tuesday afternoon aboard a Colombian National Police aircraft headed to Guatemala City, a police spokesman told AFP.

But before he landed, Colombia’s attorney general announced that Costa Rica had demanded guarantees from Guatemala that Jiménez would not be subject to the death penalty.

Jiménez, 38, is alleged to have masterminded the attack by gunmen that killed Cabral, in what is thought to be a case of mistaken identity, as he was being driven to the airport in Guatemala City in July last year.

Colombia federal police chief Oscar Naranjo told reporters the murder plot included four alleged accomplices, all of whom have been arrested.

Jiménez arrived at a Guatemalan Air Force base around 1 a.m., an AFP reporter said. The suspect was met by Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López and later transferred to a maximum security prison 20 km east of the capital to await a preliminary trial hearing.

Jiménez was captured on Monday in Bahía Solano, in the Chocó region on the Colombian side of the border with Panama. Colombian National Police said Jiménez was attempting to enter Colombia by boat, using a fake Colombian passport.

He is suspected of being the “author, prime suspect or mastermind” in the murder of Cabral. The suspect, a wealthy businessman, also is accused of being a supplier and money launderer for the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

The extradition happened a few hours after a request was made to Colombian authorities by Guatemalan prosecutor Ricardo Guzmán. He described his extradition request as “an urgent petition.”

Costa Rican Attorney General Jorge Chavarría said he would prefer Jiménez to be tried in Guatemala and not Costa Rica, as the Guatemalan murder charges are more serious than Costa Rica’s charges of money laundering and suspected drug trafficking.

Guatemalan police said Cabral, 74, appears to have been an unintended victim of a murder attempt against businessman Henry Farinas, who had refused to sell nightclubs to Jiménez. Cabral, who Farinas had hired as a performer, was riding in the same car as the businessman when the assassins opened fire.

Farinas was injured but survived and is now a witness in the case.

Argentina held three days of national mourning after Cabral’s death. Fans turned up in droves to pay final respects as the singer’s coffin was displayed in the theater district of downtown Buenos Aires.

A global nomad who claimed to have visited 150 countries, Cabral sang largely about peace, love and everyday pleasures and pain.

His songs include the 1970s hit “I’m Not From Here Nor There” and are frequently sung by other Spanish-language performers. He was declared to be a “World Peace Messenger” in 1996 by UNESCO.

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