Facundo Cabral, a singer/ songwriter from Argentina, was one of the leaders in nonviolent protest music throughout Latin America for over 50 years. Born in La Plata, Argentina in 1937, Cabral grew up in extreme poverty. As he learned to play the guitar, sing, and write, he quickly became known as the voice of the people who could not speak. His dedication to social justice movements and his response to violent military dictatorships in Latin America forced him into exile in Mexico following the Argentine coup in 1976, where he continued writing and performing, and gained wide-spread popularity. In 1996, the United Nations designated Cabral a “worldwide messenger of peace” for his continued commitment to the people and to justice and freedom for the powerless in Central and South America.
Cabral and his promoter were on their way to the airport in Guatemala City early Saturday morning, July 9, 2011, when they were ambushed by two armed vehicles. Cabral was shot and killed, while the other man traveling with him was seriously injured. The pair was coming from a performance in Quetzaltenango, where he sang in his last concert on Thursday. The official motives for the attack are still unclear, as several sources speculate that the music promoter traveling with him may have been the intended target. However, other activists, such as Rigoberta Menchú, have stated that they believe that he was assassinated for his beliefs and condemnation of the violence in the region.
In reaction to the murder, fans throughout Guatemala and around the world have spoken out for justice and peace. President Álvaro Colom declared three national days of mourning in remembrance of the artist, and expressed his deepest sympathies to the president of Argentina as well as to the public. Fans in Guatemala held a memorial concert, and thousands came to Guatemala City to honor him. The reaction has been similar throughout the Western Hemisphere, where military dictatorships and oppressive governments have been a part of the consciousness of nearly every country in the past 50 years. Hispanic communities in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and Washington DC have expressed like reactions, leading to enormous responses via Twitter and Facebook, and calls for the murderers to be brought to justice.
President Colom has stated that a full investigation of the crime is underway, and that justice will be sought for the perpetrators. Unfortunately, the murder Facundo Cabral is only one of many violent crimes in the country, the vast majority of which are committed with total impunity. The violence in Guatemala, including high rates of femicide, gang violence and organized crime, and politically-motivated assassinations, has overwhelmed the already weak and corrupt judicial system.
Cabral spent his life advocating for peace and nonviolence, and his violent death is an incredible tragedy. Cabral’s supporters have demanded justice, and GHRC joins the international community in calling for an exhaustive investigation, justice for Cabral’s murder, and increased efforts to decrease crime and violence in Guatemala.
This piece was orginally written for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC). The author, Whitley Raney, is an intern for GHRC. For other recent news from Guatemala visit the GHRC website: www.ghrc-usa.org.