José Agustín Silvestre de los Santos

Beats Covered:
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The body of Silvestre, a magazine director and television host, was found on a highway outside La Romana with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, and abdomen. Silvestre, 59, had been seized by four men outside a La Romana hotel about an hour earlier, at 8 a.m., and forced into a Jeep, according to press reports.

On August 9 and 10, the attorney general’s office and national police announced they had arrested five men whom they said were involved in planning or carrying out the attack. Police seized several weapons, dozens of ammunition rounds, and 118,000 pesos (US$3,070). One suspect allegedly told investigators that the assailants had planned to abduct Silvestre and take him to the capital, Santo Domingo, but shot him when the journalist resisted. All five suspects were detained, as was a sixth man who was arrested later, press reports said.

Police alleged the attack was ordered by Matías Avelino Castro, also known as Joaquín Espinal Almeyda, a hotel owner and reputed drug trafficker. Authorities said they traced Avelino Castro’s alleged involvement through a rental car that was used in the attack and leased through the suspect’s girlfriend. The attorney general’s office accused Avelino Castro of ordering the attack in retaliation for an article in the July issue of Silvestre’s magazine, La Vozde la Verdad  (Voice of the Truth). The story said a man named "Daniel," an alias used by the suspect, had been implicated in the recent murder of a local businessman and his driver, authorities said.

Police extradited Avelino Castro from Colombia in January 2017 to face charges in the case, according to reports. On April 10, 2018, a court convicted Avelino Castro, whom police had identified as the alleged mastermind of the killing, of being an accomplice to the murder, according to reports. The court sentenced Avelino Castro to 20 years in prison, issued a fine, and ordered him to surrender two properties and a bank account.

A court in July 2015 sentenced two men– Ángel Amed Mañón Gutiérrez and Elvin Canario de Oleo– to 30 years in prison for carrying out the murder, according to reports.

Silvestre, who hosted a CañaTV program of the same name as his magazine, had accused political figures and a priest of having involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering, press reports said. In May, a local prosecutor had filed a defamation complaint against Silvestre in connection with a television report that accused the official of having ties to drug traffickers. The journalist was jailed for several days until posting bail, according to news reports. The case was pending at the time of the murder, according to Elpidio Tolentino, a local official with the press group Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas, or CDP. Silvestre had told CDP that he had been followed by two cars that tried to intercept him on July 23.

In an August 9 press conference, prosecutor Frank Soto said witnesses had accused Silvestre of accepting money from drug traffickers on occasion for not publishing incriminating information or for running stories harmful to rivals, local press reports said. Tolentino said CDP challenged authorities to "more thoroughly investigate and to present any evidence they have supporting this claim. … If this is true they must fully investigate it. If not, they must clean his reputation."

In November 2013, a judge freed one of the men arrested in August, Fermín Calderón, on bail. The CDP condemned the decision, saying that Calderón, who is charged with laundering money for Avelino Castro as well as for the murder of Silvestre, is a flight risk. Charges against him were later dropped due to insufficient evidence, according to reports. Three other suspects arrested at the start of the investigation were released without charge, according to reports.