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Police arrest suspect in French filmmaker's slaying

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2009-09-04

Police in El Salvador have arrested a man in connection with the murder of French photographer and filmmaker Christian Poveda, whose most recent work investigated violent gang life in the Central American country.

Salvadoran police have arrested a man in connection with the murder of Christian Poveda, a French photographer and documentary filmmaker who was shot on Wednesday in a San Salvador suburb controlled by dangerous “maras”, gangs who have multiplied in several Central American countries in recent years.

"A person has been detained, and we are investigating to determine whether he has any relation to what happened," National Police chief Carlos Ascencio told reporters. Ascencio added that the suspect was arrested in the area where the killing occurred.

The police report said that Poveda had been shot four times, and that it was unlikely that robbery was the cause of the murder. Poveda’s jeep was left at the crime scene, along with his photography and video equipment. He had been filming in La Campanera, a neighbourhood 15 kilometres north-west of the capital, where gangs pervade.

But local police said that they could not yet confirm whether the crime was related to gang activity

Christian Poveda dedicated the last years of his life to exposing the life of gangs in El Salvador. "La Vida Loca" (The Crazy Life), his film about the Mara 18 gang, whose heavily-tattooed members engage in drug trafficking and extortion, is set for release in Europe on September 30.

 



Living and dying among the Maras

At the film’s French debut in June, Poveda told FRANCE 24 that he spent 16 months among the Mara18, shooting almost daily. He said he hoped to show the complexity of the situation. Although the film exposes the criminal activity and devastating violence of gangs, Poveda also portrayed the heavy-handed and ineffective tactics of police in dealing with the Mara phenomenon.



The same police who are now in charge of investigating his murder. El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes, a former journalist who knew Poveda, said he gave "precise instructions" to police chief Asencio over their investigation of the crime.

Funes said the murder “had shaken” the county and that the crime should be "cleared up as quickly as possible". The president also urged Salvadorans to unite to "combat" the scourge of gang violence.

"Christian's murder is extremely disheartening news" said Yves Jeanneau, a long-time friend of Poveda and president of the documentary film event Sunny Side of the Doc, where "La Vida Loca" premiered in France.

“It is a huge loss for the documentary world. His documentaries were extraordinarily courageous and rare; Christian was a rare person," said Jeanneau.

 


Born in France to a family of Spanish origin, Poveda covered El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war and moved there permanently in 2003. He was married to a Salvadoran woman.

 

Date created : 2009-09-04

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