Salvadoran police: filmmaker killed over gang film

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 5:23 PM

Police in El Salvador arrested 10 more gang members Wednesday in the September killing of French journalist Christian Poveda, and said he was apparently killed because he showed gang members committing illegal acts in his documentary.

Police commissioner Augusto Cotto also said a city policeman arrested previously for allegedly collaborating in the killing had falsely told gang members that Poveda had been passing information to authorities, though it wasn't clear whether that was a motive in his killing.

Poveda, a French citizen with Spanish parents, had spent years recording the activities of El Salvador's Mara 18 street gang for the film "La Vida Loca," practically living among its members while filming initiations, drug use, tattoo sessions and funerals.

"The information we have is that some gang members did not approve of the way it (the documentary) was done, and the way it was shown," Cotto told a news conference.

What they didn't like, he said, was the fact that "in the documentary they were put out in public, their illegal acts were made public, the consumption of drugs, that increased a leadership struggle in the gang ... that had already been under way for a long time."

The latest arrests are in addition to four other Mara 18 members and the policeman who were detained soon after Poveda was found shot to death in his car on the outskirts of San Salvador, the capital, on Sept. 2.

The suspects whose arrests were announced Wednesday were also members of the Mara 18 gang, and include two women. Nine other gang members already in prison have also been charged in the case. They face charges including aggravated homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide.

He said police officer Jose Napoleon Espinoza _ who allegedly collaborated with gang members and received money from extortion schemes _ had told the Mara 18 that Poveda was giving police information on the gang, something Cotto said "is totally false."

The day he was killed, Poveda set out to visit the gang-dominated Soyapango area to arrange an interview with female gang members for journalists from a French fashion magazine.

The suspects allegedly decided to kill the filmmaker.

Gang violence in impoverished El Salvador fuels one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America. The country has more than 16,000 gang members, many of whom were deported from the United States after serving jail terms there.