Jonathan Martínez Castro, a “marero” (gang member) also known as “Budín,” was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a San Salvador court on 31 May for the April 2011 murder of Canal 33 cameraman Alfredo Hurtado. His alleged accomplice, Marlon Abrego Rivas, also known as “Gato,” is currently a fugitive.
Martínez and Abrego are members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), a feared San Salvador criminal gang and main rival of Mara 18, the gang that murdered French documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda in September 2009, a year after being the subject of Poveda’s documentary La Vida Loca.
“We take note of the efforts being made by the Salvadoran police and judicial authorities to combat impunity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “El Salvador’s very high crime rate has a direct impact on civil liberties, including the freedom to report news and information.
“The long sentence passed on Martínez sends a strong signal. The authorities must now shed light on the motive for Hurtado’s murder, as well as the various roles of all those involved. Last week’s conviction was a first step but others must follow.”
Two gunmen shot Hurtado in cold blood while he was visiting Ilopango, on the outskirts of the capital, on 25 April 2011. He often covered “marero” arrests and MS supposedly suspected that he had identified two of its members to the police as the murderers of a gangster known as Piñata. The prosecutor’s office nonetheless claim that other MS members identified Piñata’s killers.
Abrego, Hurtado’s other alleged killer, has been wanted ever since a warrant for his arrest was issued in the Piñata investigation.
Members of Hurtado’s family point out that he had already been threatened by MS because of his coverage of police operations and his close relations with the police and judicial authorities in connection with his journalistic work. His Canal 33 colleagues seem to agree that this was the most likely motive.