Christian Gregorio Poveda Ruiz

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Salvadoran police found Poveda’s body sprawled near his car on an isolated road in the town of Tonacatepeque, about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the capital, San Salvador, according to local and international press reports. He had been shot in the face at least four times at close range. Authorities found an audio recorder and the journalist’s press credentials at the scene.

Poveda, a 52-year-old Frenchman of Spanish descent, had documented violence in El Salvador as a filmmaker and photojournalist over the course of three decades.

Throughout 2008, the journalist worked on a highly anticipated documentary about one of the country’s most violent street gangs, Mara 18. During the filming, Poveda lived with gang members for 18 months. The documentary, “La Vida Loca,” was scheduled for wide release in September and had already been screened at international film festivals. It showed brutal killings, rites of initiation, and the judicial system’s ineffectiveness in combating gangs. Local press reports said Poveda had received death threats from angry gang members.

Tonacatepeque was controlled by Mara 18, local press reports said. At the time of the murder, Poveda was reportedly traveling from nearby La Campanera, a town controlled by Mara 18’s main rival, Mara Salvatrucha. Confrontations between the two gangs have been extremely violent. Witnesses said they called police to the scene of the killing after hearing several gunshots, according to local press reports.

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes issued a statement condemning Poveda’s killing and calling for an end to street violence.In September 2009, local police arrested several suspects, including reputed members of Mara 18 and a police agent according to news reports.

On March 9, 2011, a special tribunal for organized crime sentenced Luis Roberto Vásquez Romero and José Alejandro Melara, two high-ranking members of Mara 18 to 30 years imprisonment on charges of masterminding and carrying out Poveda’s killing, according to local and international press reports. Mara member Keyri Geraldine Mayorga Álvarez was found guilty of being an accomplice and sentenced to 20 years in prison, press reports said.

Eight other individuals, including seven gang members, were handed four-year sentences on charges of criminal association. The other, former police officer Juan Napoleón Espinoza Pérez, had labeled Poveda as a police informant, which was believed to have been a motivating factor in the murder, the San Salvador-based online newspaper ElFaro reported.

Twenty other suspects tried in relation to Poveda’s killing were acquitted, press reports said, although all are serving sentences in other cases, ElFaro reported. The attorney general’s office said it would appeal the acquittals.

In August, 2013, three other members of Mara 18 were sentenced to 10 years in jail each for having participated in the planning of the murder, according to news reports. Salvadoran authorities said one remaining suspect has not yet been brought to justice, according to Agence France-Presse.