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Costa Rican man sentenced to 50 years in prison for murder of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Costa Rican citizen Alejandro Jiménez, known as ‘El Palidejo,’ was sentenced Thursday in Guatemala to 50 years in prison for masterminding the 2011 murder of Argentine troubadour Facundo Cabral in Guatemala City.

“The defendants are guilty of the crime of murdering” Facundo Cabral, pronounced Judge Yassmín Barrios, who imposed a similar sentence on four Guatemalans found responsible for participating in the armed attack.

The crime against the artist, committed on July 9, 2011, shocked Guatemala. In the wake of the incident, citizens dressed in white took to the streets to demand justice and “an apology to the world” for the murder, and to demand that then President Álvaro Colom (2008-2012) address the country’s high levels of violence.

Jiménez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Cabral and another 20 years for attempted murder against the Nicaraguan businessman Henry Fariñas, who was traveling with Cabral in the same car and was the real target of the attack.

The judge applied the same sentence to Guatemalan citizens Elgin Vargas, Wilfred Stokes, Juan Hernández and Audelino García, identified as perpetrators of the crime.

The judge added three years in prison for Vargas and Stokes for concealing the crime, although Guatemalan law allows a maximum of 50 years in prison.

According to Barrios, who presided over the court since March 28, during the trial it was shown that Jiménez “hired” the group of thugs led by Vargas to “kill Fariñas,” but Cabral was killed instead.

Step against impunity

A singer, composer and philosopher, the Argentine was famous for his concerts combining music with reflection on political, social or existential problems.

One of his most famous songs is “I am not from here nor there,” which the author claimed to have improvised in 1968 during a concert in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and that is a hymn to the simple things in life.

According to the prosecution, the attack was directed against the Nicaraguan businessman Fariñas, who was traveling with Cabral to La Aurora International Airport, after the artist performed two shows in Guatemala.

During the debate, through a video presented by prosecutors, Fariñas explained that the attack emanated from a failed negotiation for the sale to Jiménez of a nightclub in Costa Rica.

Fariñas has been imprisoned since 2012 in Nicaragua, where he is serving an 18-year sentence for drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy.

Mario Polanco, director of the human rights organization Mutual Support Group (GAM), told AFP that the sentence against Jiménez and others involved in the violent death of Cabral is “a message to the world” that the crime against the artist will not go unpunished.

“It’s an important statement to improve the country’s image and to regain justice in Guatemala, which has been very weak because impunity has prevailed,” Polanco said. He also said the case showed the power of transnational crime in Central America.

Criminal past

Jiménez was captured in Colombia when he tried to enter with false documents. He was extradited to Guatemala on April 11, 2013 and held in a maximum security prison in the capital.

‘El Palidejo’ had already been under scrutiny from Costa Rican judicial authorities since 2002 for allegations of fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking.

Posing as a vegetable seller in the town of La Aurora, just outside of San José, Jiménez had properties valued at $2 million, at least 10 luxury cars and other ostentatious possessions.

Jiménez’s wife, Wendy Pérez, fled Costa Rica more than a year ago during investigations into her possible involvement in money laundering. Jiménez’s parents are also at large.

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