Cabral Murder Case Again Puts Spotlight on Nicaragua Police Corruption

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Henry Fariñas, the target of the hit that killed Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral, has accused the main suspect in the attack of having paid off the Nicaraguan police, highlighting potential corruption in the police force.

Fariñas, a Nicaraguan nightclub owner, who is currently standing trial for drug trafficking and money laundering, testified that Costa Rican Alejandro Jimenez, alias “El Palidejo,” had paid bribes to the police after a raid.

On September 13 he told the court that Nicaraguan police had raided El Palidejo’s Managua house two months before the attempted assassination in Guatemala, in July 2011. The hit, which was allegedly ordered because Fariñas stole a drug shipment, went wrong. Instead of their target, the gunmen killed Argentine singer Facundo Cabral, who Fariñas was escorting to the airport.

It is not clear why El Palidejo’s house was raided, but La Prensa reported that the police did not arrest or detain him afterwards. Fariñas, who owns nightclub chain Elite, stated that this was because a deal had been made. “[El Palidejo] told me he had resolved the problem with the police by paying them a large amount of money,” he claimed.

Fariñas’ own relationship with the police was questioned when former Elite employee and fellow defendant, Hugo Jaens, took the stand on 13 September. Speaking about Elite, Jaens stated, “It’s a public place. We are [located] four blocks from the National Intelligence Police and were friends with all the officers, from the lowest rank to the highest … We used to give one or two free drinks to the bosses.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Fariñas’ claim that corrupt officers let El Palidejo walk free will make uncomfortable listening for the Nicaraguan police force. Often held as the standard in the region for its ability to avoid criminal infiltration, the Fariñas case has brought the force’s credibility into question. 

As InSight Crime discovered as part of its investigation into criminal networks in Nicaragua, Fariñas may have had illicit ties to a former police commander, Carlos Palacios. One high-level Nicaraguan police source told InSight Crime that the two worked together, with Fariñas tipping off police about cocaine shipments to seize so that they could split the cargo and re-sell it. Palacios vehemently denied the accusations.

With regards to the admission that police frequented Elite, the country’s police chief, Aminta Granera, played down suspicions that there was ever anything sinister, telling InSight Crime in June, “Just because you go to the Elite Club, does that mean you are a criminal working with Fariñas? Not necessarily.”

There is also the possibility that Fariñas made the claims about El Palidejo’s relationship with the police in order to distract attention from himself. The vagueness of his claims — there have been no details on how much was paid, how many officers were involved, or why the raid was conducted — makes this seem more plausible. The country’s Attorney General’s and Inspector General’s Offices stated they knew nothing of the claims, or why El Palidejo would have paid off officers.

El Palidejo is set to face trial himself, after a judge in Guatemala ruled on 12 September that he should face justice in that country for the murder of Facundo Cabral.

With this trial set to start, Fariñas is likely to engage in more mudslinging and claims of corruption, hoping to muddy the waters in his own case.  Between the two trials, there is a real chance that the details of the drug trafficking network the men allegedly operated through Central America, will become clear.

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