A year has gone by since Christian Poveda, a French photojournalist, documentary filmmaker and politically-committed observer, was shot dead in a San Salvador suburb on 2 September 2009, probably by members of a local gang. His death has deprived his profession of one of its best-informed specialists in Central America, a region often ignored by the international press.
After covering the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, Poveda returned to El Salvador during the 1990s. He was one of the few journalists to cover the country’s local gangs from the inside, spending months filming a gang called Mara 18. La Vida Loca, his major documentary based on this experience, was premiered in France two weeks after his death.
Along with those of other journalists killed in the course of their work in 2009, Poveda’s name will appear on a commemorative stone that is to be inaugurated on 7 October at the Bayeux Memorial. La Vida Loca will meanwhile be screened at the Biarritz Latin America Festival from 27 September to 3 October (http://www.festivaldebiarritz.com/).
The investigation into Poveda’s murder is being closely followed by President Mauricio Funes, a former journalist, and there have been significant developments in 2010. They are indicative of a real political and judicial will to solve a prominent example of the endemic violence that has made El Salvador one of the most dangerous countries in the hemisphere.
The arrest last April of Daniel “El Black” Cabrera Flores, the gang leader who – according to the police – ordered Poveda’s murder, followed a month later by that of Iván Antonio Leiva, the gang member who allegedly carried it out, brought to 33 the number of suspects detained in the case. The police are still searching for two other suspects.
Alain Mingam, a close friend of Poveda and member of the Reporters Without Borders board, cannot forget the conversation they had shortly before his death in which Poveda said: “I am going to a meeting in La Campanera with four furious crazies.” La Campanera is where his body was found.
Mingam hails the progress that has been made in the investigation but points that it will be hard to establish exactly what happened and who did what because there are so many suspects.
Reporters Without Borders shares these concerns and the organisation’s secretary-general, Jean-François Julliard, expressed them when he recently met in Paris with Salvadorean chargé d’affaires Dina Mendoza-Christophe.
Reporters Without Borders continues to monitor the case and plans to visit El Salvador towards the end of the year, when it hopes to meet with President Funes.