The Day The Music Died: Argentine Folk Singer Facundo Cabral Gunned Down In Guatemala

Latin America lost one of its most beloved folk musicians this past weekend, when unidentified gunmen in Guatemala shot and killed Facundo Cabral of Argentina. Overun by gangs and mafia groups, Guatemala has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Argentina folk singer Facundo Cabral (1937-2011)
Argentina folk singer Facundo Cabral (1937-2011)


The United Nations had given him the title "worldwide messenger of peace." So when Facundo Cabral was gunned down Saturday morning on a Guatemalan road, the entire region mourned the loss of the 74-year-old Argentinean troubadour, who lived from hotel-to-hotel while singing his serenades for social justice.

Cabral's songs exhorted peace and optimism. It is a sad irony that his life would end in such sudden violence, snatched away in a chaotic country on the verge of political and social collapse. Overrun by organized mafias, Guatemala is reeling from rampant violence and corruption.

Cabral was riding in the passenger seat in a vehicle driven by his friend, nightclub owner Henry Fariñas Franco, who was taking the famous singer to the airport. Cabral was scheduled to fly to Nicaragua for a series of concerts, according to the Guatemala City daily La Hora.

The singer-songwriter of "No soy de aquí ni soy de allá" (I'm neither from here nor there) had just performed in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. Witnesses said gunmen traveling in three vehicles overtook Fariñas' car, which was being tailed by a fifth vehicle carrying the businessman's bodyguards. A shootout began and Cabral was struck three times, including in the face; Fariñas and Davíd Llanos, Cabral's road manager, were also seriously wounded.

Police believe the attack was aimed at Fariñas and not intended for Cabral. Guatemalan newspapers reported early Tuesday morning that police arrested two suspects. The search for the other suspected gunmen continues. Police are also investigating the possibility that the wounded nightclub owner was involved in some type of criminal activity.

In an interview with a Mexican radio station on Monday, Guatemala President Álvaro Colom said he plans to contact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concerning unconfirmed reports that Fariñas is one of the Sinaloa cartel's major money launderers. "We have not received any indication of this," he said.

On Sunday, thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets of the capital to mourn Cabral and demand that the government do more to bring peace to their nation. "We are shocked and enraged by the violence that affects our country, and ashamed that this great poet was killed here; all he did was bring us love and culture, "a university student told Prensa Libre.

Enough Already!

According to official figures, 98% of Guatemala's violent crimes go unpunished or unsolved. In a strong editorial, La Hora blamed the Colom government for allowing organized crime to penetrate all facets of society as well as the people for not standing up.

"Guatemala is in a hole not only because our international image has reached rock bottom with the unspeakable and heinous murder of Facundo Cabral, but because this is just a small reflection of how things are here," the editorial reads. "And they are like this because we are a people who don't react, who fail to demand, who fail to implore and who never stand up on our feet to say: Enough already!"

But in an interview with Spain's El País in May, Colom blamed the two previous administrations – led by Presidents Óscar Berger and Alfonso Portillo – for "planning to turnover" the country to drug traffickers.

"I can not tell if it was the presidents or the ministers, but there was an agreed upon plan between the mafia and its connections in those respective governments," Colom said.

Cabral's body was sent Tuesday by the Guatemalan government to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he will be buried, according to Argentinean ambassador Ernesto López.

In one of his last interviews, just two days before his murder, Cabral told the daily El Quetzaltenango that he had cancer. "If I get a little more time – I have very bad health, I have terminal cancer – I might go to one of the many hotels where I have known to stay and work alongside the gardener. I dream of finishing my life growing flowers, it is the thing I like most, as well as carpentry. I like the smell of wood. If I get some time I'll do it and if I go, it will be just like that."

Martin Delfín

Photo - Epiclectic

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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