Guerrilla Spokesman Quits After Being Mentioned During Havana’s Drug Trail
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A guerrilla leader resigned Thursday after a Cuban colonel being tried in Havana on drug charges mentioned him as his only contact with the Colombian insurgency.
Ramiro Lucio Escobar, spokesman for M-19, the April 19 movement, announced he is resigning in an effort to avoid further allegations against his organization.
″I am conscious of the gravity of the accusations. I want to assume my personal defense and prevent this matter to be politically exploited against the M-19,″ he told Colombian RCN broadcast station.
Cuban Col. Antonio de la Guardia testified Wednesday in Havana that Escobar was the only person he dealt with during his trips to Colombia. In the testimony, broadcast on Colombian television, de la Guardia did not specifically say the dealings were part of alleged cocaine-smuggling activities.
Escobar acknowledged he met the Cuban army colonel but only to trade Colombian paintings in exchange for Cuban sugar, tobbaco and alcohol.
″De la Guardia ... cannot reveal his real drug connections, and that probably is why he named me, a person with whom he had many commercial contacts,″ Escobar said.
″I am one of the most watched man in Colombia today because of my public condition of political spokesman for a guerrilla organization. Consequently, the Colombian government has a full information on my businesses with Cuba,″ he said.
In the Havana trial, Cuban military officers are being tried on charges they helped drug barons of Colombia’s Medellin cartel smuggle into the United States up to six tons of cocaine using Cuban airports’ facilities.
Colombian authorities have repeatedly charged the Colombian pro-Castro guerrillas with involvement with drug traffickers.
The charges usually spared the M-19, a nationalist guerrilla currently holding peace talks with the government aimed at a full incorporation of the movement into the Colombian political system.