Murder raises spectre of past

Pepita the gunslinger is in jail but insists she didn't do it. The police themselves are being investigated over it. But most Argentines believe "the political powers" were behind it.

A month after the grisly murder of top news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas, Argentines are clamouring for justice. The charred, handcuffed and shot body of Cabezas, a 35-year-old father of three known for his anti-corruption photo report-ages, was found dead in his car on 25 January in the beach resort of Pinamar.

Police think he was doused in petrol and burnt alive before the killers delivered a coup de grace with a pistol to his head. It was seen as the most significant kil-ling of a journalist since the"Dirty War" of the Seventies.

Chanting "Justice! Justice!", thousands of journalists, trade unionists, politicians and others held a protest rally in Buenos Aires on Tuesday outside the offices of the weekly investigative news magazine Noticias, where Cabezas worked. Some held signs saying "No to impunity" and said they feared the murder had "evoked ghosts from the past" - when left- wing students, workers and journalists "disappeared" after visits from military-backed death squads.

Cabezas had riled many politicians and businessmen with his reportages on corruption and had just attended a late-night party at the villa of leading businessman, Oscar Andreani, when he was killed. Mr Andreani and another postal services magnate, Alfredo Yarban - both friends of President Carlos Menem - have been publicly accused of running a "mafia" in the lucrative customs and postal services.

Police detained five people earlier this month, including"Pepita la pistolera" (Pepita the gunslinger), a convicted ki-ller and drugs dealer, after a would-be former gang member said he had heard them planning the crime. Police claimed a pistol found in the home of one of the five was the murder weapon but most Argentinians agree that Pepita is a scapegoat.

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