Man accused of being mastermind behind 2011 murder of Dominican journalist has been arrested in Colombia

Matías Avelino Castro of the Dominican Republic, alleged mastermind behind the murder of Dominican journalist José Agustín Silvestre in 2011, was arrested on April 3 in Bogotá, Colombia, reported Colonel Juan Carlos Gómez, chief of Interpol Colombia, according to AFP.

Avelino Castro, who has faced an international warrant for his arrest since 2011 on charges of kidnapping and murder, was on the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic’s most wanted list, according to Colombian newspaper El País.

The Dominican government requires Matías Avelino to be prosecuted as a member and leader of a criminal gang, in addition to being the alleged perpetrator of the murder of journalist José Silvestre, El Caribe reported.

Silvestre, 59, known as “Gajo,” was kidnapping and murdered on August 2, 2011 in the community of El Peñón, in the city of La Romana, Dominican Republic where he lived. His body was found with two bullet wounds in the highway between La Romana and San Pedro de Macorís, as Reporters Without Borders said at the time.

The journalist – who hosted the program “The Voice of Truth” on regional channel Caña Teve, and was director of a magazine of the same name – used to report on cases of local corruption and crime, the Knight Center reported.

Shortly before his death, according to Diario Libre, Silvestre began receiving threats and was persecuted after reporting on the murder of the owner of a brewery in La Romana, and of other people. These criminal acts denounced by the journalist could have been related to conflicts between drug gangs, EFE reported.

In 2015, Elvin Canario de Oleo and Ángel Amed Mañón Gutierréz – the latter, a driver for Avelino Castro – were sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty of being the perpetrators of the murder, El Nacional reported. They also were required to pay 8 million Dominican pesos (approximately US $175,000) in compensation, according to El Caribe.

The Committee to Protect Journalists includes Silvestre’s murder in the category of those with a confirmed motive, meaning that the organization is “reasonably certain that a journalist was murdered in direct reprisal for his or her work.”

The Dominican Attorney General, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic mission in the country accredited in Colombia, formally launched extradition proceedings for Avelino Castro, who also “served as leader of the Samaná cartel, a narcotrafficking organization that is credited for sending large quantities of narcotics from Colombia and Venezuela to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the United States,” the authorities reported, according to AFP.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.