The Dominican police have named the people they think masterminded and carried out the 2 August abduction and murder of journalist José Agustín Silvestre de los Santos and say the motive was an article by Silvestre linking the alleged mastermind to a recent murder.
Also known as “Gajo,” Silvestre hosted the programme “La Voz de la Verdad” (Voice of Truth) on Caña Teve, a regional TV station in the east of the country, and edited a magazine of the same name.
“We hail the effort that has been put into this investigation and its rapid results,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Solving this case will send a signal in the fight against impunity. Now that it has been confirmed that the victim’s work as a journalist was the motive, we must point out that the Dominican Republic continues to be a risky country for journalists who try to cover such subjects as street violence, corruption and organized crime.”
According to investigators, Silvestre was abducted and murdered on the orders of Matías “Daniel” Avelino Castro, the owner of a hotel and advertising agency who used the alias of Joaquín Espinal Almeyda. They say Avelino wanted to avenge an article by Silvestre linking him to criminal activity including the murder of two people in the eastern city of La Romana.
It was Avelino who allegedly asked Ángel Amed Mañón Gutiérrez to carry out the murder. Mañón was arrested with the murder weapon on 7 August and, according to the police, has since made a confession. The police have arrested three other suspected accomplices – Franklin Lugo Mejía, Denny Júnior Serrano and Elvin Canario de Oleo – and are searching for a fourth suspect, Fermín Marcelino Calderón, as well as the alleged mastermind.
According to the police, traces of Silvestre’s blood were found in a rented car. Immediately after the murder, Avelino allegedly telephoned the head of the car rental agency, Antonio Rafael Fulgencio Lan, and asked him to destroy the rental contract. Fulgencio has been arrested and a judge yesterday ordered him held in pre-trial custody for three months on a charge of complicity. His lawyers plan to appeal.
03.08.11 - Investigative journalist’s murder probably linked to his work
Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s murder of TV presenter José Agustín Silvestre de los Santos, who was kidnapped in the eastern city of La Romana and was later found dead in El Peñon, on the road from La Romana to San Pedro de Macorís. He had been shot three times.
“We urge the authorities to quickly identify those responsible for José Silvestre’s murder,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Those in charge of the investigation that is already under way should focus on the probability that his death was linked to his investigative coverage of crime and alleged links between drug traffickers and police and judicial officials.”
Also known as “Gajo,” Silvestre, 59, hosted the programme “La Voz de la Verdad” (Voice of Truth) on regional TV station Caña Teve and edited a magazine of the same name. Local newspapers reported that four unidentified individuals forced him into a car in La Romana at about 8 a.m. yesterday. Witnesses said they heard shots fired.
Silvestre had reported being followed a few days before his murder. According to the newspaper Diario Libre, he had been forced to leave La Romana temporarily after making allegations on the air on 30 July about a recent murder.
On the orders of President Leonel Fernández, attorney-general Radhamés Jiménez yesterday created a special team led by national police chief José Armando Polanco Gómez to investigate Silvestre’s murder. Police said they had already arrested seven suspects but they have not yet identified any alleged perpetrators or masterminds.
A criminal defamation charge was brought against Silvestre last May for accusing La Romana prosecutor José Polanco Ramírez on the air of links with drug trafficking. Shots were fired at Silvestre’s home and he spent six days in detention before being released on bail of 100,000 pesos (2,600 euros).
The investigation of this murder should be a top priority for the authorities in a country where the press freedom situation is, on the whole, fairly satisfactory.