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Hotel owner sought in Dominican journalist killing

August 18, 2011 |  3:40 pm

Dominican prosecutors procuraduria santo domingo

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have alleged that a hotel owner is a key conspirator behind a plan to kidnap and assassinate a prominent muckraking journalist who made allegations of links among drug traffickers, antidrug prosecutors and business leaders in the small Caribbean nation.

Jose Silvestre, publisher of the Voice of Truth weekly newspaper and host of a radio program of the same name (link in Spanish), was shot to death while four suspects attempted to kidnap him on Aug. 2 in the city of La Romana. His body was found later on a roadside east of Santo Domingo. 

Authorities suspect businessman and resort owner Matias Avelino Castro ordered Silvestre's murder and remained at large. Avelino wanted Silvestre dead after a July report in the Voice of Truth referred to the alleged criminal links of several of the businessman's associates, Dominican prosecutors said in a statement (link in Spanish). Four arrests have been made in the case, Dominican Today reported.

The Dominican Republic is becoming a key drug-trafficking route from South and Central America into the United States.

Avelino uses several aliases including Joaquin Almeida, Franklin Linaira and "Daniel." News outlets in the Dominican Republic identify him as a leader in a group known as the Samana cartel, named for the Samana peninsula where his Las Galeras resort is located (link in Spanish). That hotel's website presents it as a luxurious tropical getaway and has information in five European languages.

Silvestre was jailed for six days this year on libel charges after he published allegations linking a local antidrug prosecutor to narcotics trafficking. The journalist sometimes made criminal allegations against officials and others without sourcing the claims, the Associated Press said. Prosecutors also said they have testimony from three people who claim Silvestre was paid to publish some of his allegations.

Nonetheless, the journalist's killing has received attention from Amnesty International and other rights groups. According to a sibling, shots were fired at Silvestre's house in May, Amnesty International reported, and because of the threats against the journalist, the Dominican Republic's national press workers union had requested police protection for Silvestre, which was never granted.

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic hold a news conference on Aug. 9 detailing updates in their investigation into the death of journalist Jose Silvestre in Santo Domingo. Credit: Procuraduria General de la Republica Dominicana