NEW YORK (AP) _ Three Colombians pleaded guilty to taking part in the killing of an anti- drug crusading journalist slain at the order of the Cali cocaine cartel.

The government said Jose Santa Cruz Londono, a reputed leader of the Cali drug cartel, ordered the March 1992 killing of Manuel de Dios Unanue, who was eidtor in chief of El Diario-La Prensa, the city's largest Spanish-language newspaper.

De Dios' work gained him enemies that included members of the Puerto Rican right wing, anti-Castro forces and an assortment of New York City and Latin American cocaine dealers.

The federal court papers unsealed Monday didn't say whether Santa Cruz Londono was indicted, but said that one of his chief aides, Guillermo Leon Restrepo Gaviria, was charged with communicating the order to have de Dios killed.

The three Colombians who pleaded guilty have agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the court papers say. They face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

John Harold Mena, 25, said Gaviria told him in September 1991 that the cartel would pay $50,000 to have de Dios killed. Juan Carlos Velasco, 25, admitted hiring the gunman; and Velasco's wife, Elizabeth Castano, 25, admitted helping collect the payment for the gunman.

Mena entered his plea on Sept. 15. Velasco and Castano pleaded guilty last year.

Wilson Alejandro Mejia Velez, 18, has been charged as the man who shot de Dios twice in the head while the journalist sat in a restaurant. He is scheduled for trial Nov. 8.