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Colombia sends suspect in singer slay to Guatemala

- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (AP) - A Costa Rican man who authorities say may have links to Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel was expelled to Guatemala in connection with last year's fatal shooting of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral.

Costa Rican authorities had asked Colombia to halt the deportation of Fernando Alejandro Jimenez Gonzalez because the suspect could face execution in Guatemala and Costa Rica does not accept the application of the death penalty to its citizens.

But Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla later said his country had sent Costa Rica a diplomatic note guaranteeing that the death penalty would not be applied, allowing the expulsion to proceed

An official with Colombia's Foreign Ministry who was not authorized to speak to the press told The Associated Press late Tuesday that the plane had finally departed from an anti-drug base in Colombia's capital. Earlier, a police statement had said that Jimenez had already been flown out.

Jimenez arrived at the Guatemala City airport early Wednesday and was taken to National Police headquarters in the capital, said Minister of Government Mauricio Lopez Bonilla.

Jimenez, 38, was arrested Saturday by counternarcotics police in a speedboat that Colombia's navy had tracked from Panama into Colombian territorial waters, said Colombia's national police chief, Gen. Oscar Naranjo.

Costa Rican authorities have said Jimenez is wanted at home on suspicion of money laundering and drug trafficking, but they asked Colombia to send him directly to Guatemala for the Cabral case.

The Colombian police said in a communique that according to information gathered by Costa Rican security agencies that Jimenez could be a link between the Sinaloa cartel headed by Mexican druglord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Colombian narco brothers Luis Enrique and Javier Antonio Calle Serna.

Naranjo said Colombian police believe Jimenez arranged his attempt to enter Colombia on Saturday with the help of the brothers.

Costa Rican officials allege Jimenez is head of a criminal group that launders money in Central America, and they believe Cabral was the unintended victim of an attack on another man in the same car related to a rift over stolen drug money. Drug cartels, some from Mexico, have established themselves in Central America and grow and ship drugs in the region.

Cabral, 74, was shot to death July 9 after giving a concert in Quetzaltenango, a Guatemalan city 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital, Guatemala City.

Authorities believe the attack was aimed at Cabral's promoter, Nicaraguan businessman Henry Farina, who was driving the singer to the airport. Farina was wounded when their car was ambushed by assailants in three cars.

Guatemalan officials have said the killers appeared to have had Farina under surveillance for about a week before the attack and didn't know Cabral was in the vehicle.

Three other suspects were arrested last year in Guatemala, but Jimenez had remained a fugitive.

Cabral rose to fame in the early 1970s as one of a generation of singers who mixed political protest with literary lyrics. He created deep bonds with an audience struggling through an era of revolution and repression across Latin America.

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