Leading Presidential Hopeful Assassinated
A gunman assassinated a leading presidential candidate at a political rally Friday night, the mayor of Bogota said. It was the latest in a series of attacks by drug traffickers.(0036EDT) .....................................................................
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A gunman assassinated a leading presidential hopeful at a political rally Friday night, the mayor of Bogota said. It was the latest in a series of attacks by drug traffickers, police said.
The assassin opened fire on Sen. Luis Carlos Galan as the Liberal Party candidate was about to give a speech before 10,000 people in Soacha, 20 miles south of Bogota. At least 10 others were wounded.
After the attack President Virgilio Barco used his powers under the nation’s state of siege to re-establish a treaty with the United States to extradite suspected drug traffickers.
Galan, 46, died of several gunshot wounds to the chest, said Bogota Mayor Andres Pastrana. Galan had escaped an assassination attempt Aug. 5 in the city of Medillin by drug traffickers, who police said had offered $500,000 to kill him.
Police also blamed the Friday attack on drug lords.
Galan, who had been one of six Liberal Party candidates seeking the presidential party’s nomination for the May 1990 president, was widely considered the front-runner to replace Barco.
Photographer Jesus Calderon said two shots hit Galan in the stomach as he was about to give his speech at the rally.
″When the individual began firing, (Galan) fell to the ground,″ said photographer Jesus Calderon. Calderon said two shots hit Galan in the stomach, but he maintained consciousness ″and asked only that he be taken quickly to the hospital.″
At least 10 others were wounded, including one of Galan’s bodyguards, two local political leaders and supporters near the podium. The crowd panicked.
″The people were running, screaming and crying,″ said Calderon.
The gunman escaped, and police mounted a search. Barco, in an address broadcast nationwide on television and radio, said he would renew the extradition treaty with the United States, which was suspended by the Supreme Court on a technicality in April 1988.
He said his government would take emergency measures to stop the Medellin cartel, which is responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States. They include hiring special judges to investigate drug traffickers and detaining suspects for a week without a hearing.
The attack came hours after drug traffickers shot to death a provincial police chief who had led a campaign against the drug traffickers based in Medellin.
The Medellin cartel claimed responsibility for the slaying of Col. Waldemar Franklin Quintero in calls to local radio stations.
Friday’s attacks came amid a strike by the nation’s judges, who are protesting the violence and they say is a lack of protection for members of their profession.
Franklin Quintero recently had given up his official bodyguards and asked that they instead be assigned to protect judges.
Franklin Quintero, 46, police commander for Antioquia province where Medellin is located, left his home Friday in his chauffeur-driven car that had gone about 450 feet when it was cut off by another car and five gunmen emerged, officials said.
″They fired without mercy for several minutes at the colonel, who was hit more than a hundred times,″ an unidentified witness told Radio Caracol. The witness said the chauffeur also was injured.
Witnesses said Franklin Quintero’s car was destroyed by gunfire. The interior was covered with blood.
Franklin Quintero directed the local campaign against cocaine trafficking and led several major raids that resulted in the seizure of tons of the drug and the arrest of several dealers.
On Wednesday night, Magistrate Carlos Valencia Garcia was shot to death in Bogota, hours after rejecting appeals filed on behalf of two Medellin leaders.
On Thursday night, an armed band intercepted a police van carrying 18 arrested people and set them free. They included several suspected drug traffickers, officials said.
″It’s terrifying what is happening in Colombia,″ said Justice Minister Monica de Grieff.
″The only way to confront this challenge is by fighting together, the government, judges, the armed forces and the citizenry to stop the wave of violence,″ she said.