Folk singer Facundo Cabral killed by gunmen

Gunmen with rifles shot and killed one of Latin America's most famous folk singers, Facundo Cabral, on Saturday in Guatemala.

Popular Argentine singer shot in Guatemala

Police say the gunmen who shot and killed one of Latin America's most famous folk singers, Facundo Cabral, on Saturday, were aiming for his concert promoter who was driving the car.

The 74-year-old Argentine singer and novelist was on his way to Guatemala's main airport early in the morning when gunmen attacked his vehicle, hitting him with at least eight bullets, said city fire department spokesman Jose Rodriguez.

Authorities said Saturday afternoon the driver of the car, Nicaraguan concert promoter Henry Farinas. was apparently the target. Farinas was wounded.

Interior Minister Carlos Menocal said cars carrying the gunmen flanked Cabral's vehicle on both sides and opened fire as a third vehicle blocked it from the front.

Menocal said Cabral initially planned to take a hotel shuttle to the airport, but accepted a ride from Farinas.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom blamed "people involved in organized crime" at a news conference. 

"They are not street killers. It's a well-planned operation," he said.

But police officials said they are still not sure of the motive.

"Adios, amigo," tweeted Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, in a message that expressed "profound sadness" at the murder.

'I love life'

Born to a poor family, Cabral rose to fame in the early 1970s, one of a generation of singers who mixed political protest with literary lyrics and created deep bonds with an audience struggling through an era of revolution and repression across Latin America.

The singer, who walked with aid of a cane and had trouble with his vision in later years, lost his wife and a 1-year-old daughter in a plane crash in 1978.

"I love life so much because it cost me so much to enjoy it," he told The Associated Press in an interview in 2008.

"From the cradle to the grave is a school, so if what we call problems are lessons, we see life differently," he said.

His most famous song, No soy de aqui ni alla (I'm Not From Here or There ) was recorded about 700 times in 27 languages.

"Facundo Cabral was our last troubadour. As much a philosopher-poet as a singer, he was a living testament to the search for what unites us in culture and society," said Argentine singer Isabel de Sebastian. "After his concerts, you'd feel that our life in common was richer, more mysterious, more profound."

Cabral lived mostly on the road, in hotels and with friends, telling interviewers that he owned no home. He was particularly proud that UNESCO declared him to be an "international messenger of peace" in 1996.

He never thought of retiring: "I can't stop, I wouldn't be able to," he said. "I breathe on the road ... on stage I'm 50 years younger, it pleases me to excite people with life."

He once said he would like to die while on a concert tour.

"The song is very secondary," he said. "It's like recreation."

Cabral gave his last concert Thursday in the city of Quetzaltenango, 200 kilometers west of Guatemala City.