Police Arrest Five in Galan Assassination
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Police said they arrested five suspects Tuesday night in the assassination of leading presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan at a campaign rally. Authorities have blamed cocaine traffickers for his death.
The five were presented to local reporters at national police headquarters and shown on television. They were dressed in casual, well-worn clothing.
All five are Colombians, police said, and identified them as Armando Bernal Acosta, Norberto Morillo Charalca, Pedro Zembrano Delgado, Luis Gonzalez Chacon and Jubis Hazvumb.
Police said the five men were arrested at a downtown apartment. No other details were given.
Police also announced that proceedings began Tuesday to extradite a purported manager of drug money to the United States, where he faces conspiracy charges involving a billion-dollar money-laundering scheme.
Authorities reported more raids and seizures on the fourth day of their nationwide crackdown on the drug underworld. The country’s judges planned to return to their duties, ending a strike called after a judge and police official were killed Thursday.
The extradition of Eduardo Martinez Romero, said to manage funds for the notorious Medellin cartel, was seen as a test of a government pledge to hand over cocaine traffickers wanted in the United States. The powerful cocaine cartels have cowed the courts in the past through a systematic campaign of terror.
Martinez escaped arrest last spring in Panama on the day U.S. officials announced his indictment in connection with the drug-laundering scheme. The indictment followed an investigation which resulted in charges against 127 people and two Latin American banks.
Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said in Washington that the United States is moving to extradite Martinez, even though his name was not on a list of the ″Dozen Most Wanted″ drug traffickers Thornburgh sent Tuesday to the Colombian government. The list focused on the leaders of the Medellin and Cali cartels.
On Tuesday, columnist Francisco Santos expressed the public’s outrage at the Friday murder of Sen. Galan, an outspoken foe of the drug lords.
″The killing of Galan has to be the drop that makes the cup overflow″ and end the terror that has paralyzed the Colombian establishment, he wrote in the daily El Tiempo. ″Let the country’s bloody assassins know that the Colombian state indeed can fight them with energy and will.″
Officials said Martinez was being held under strict security at the headquarters of the national police department’s judicial investigations division.
Martinez was captured in a weekend raid on a rural estate at Tolu, on the Caribbean coast 550 miles north of Bogota. Police said he offered no resistance.
In an interview with a local reporter, Martinez said: ″At no time have I had links to the Medellin cartel and I don’t know any of its members.″
Col. Oscar Carmona, chief of the judicial investigations division, said the extradition process began Tuesday with the dispatch of notes to the Justice Ministry and U.S. Embassy informing them of the arrest.
Radio reports, quoting unidentified government sources, said officials at the Justice Ministry and President Virgilio Barco’s office were drawing up specific procedures for handing Martinez over to the United States.
One of several emergency measures Barco announced Friday gave his government the authority to extradite drug dealers without judicial review, relieving the besieged judiciary of responsibility.
Since 1981, assassins working for the cocaine barons have killed 220 judges, magistrates and judicial aides.
Martinez would be the first drug suspect sent to the United States since 1987, when the Supreme Court nullified an extradition treaty that had been used to deliver 14 purported drug dealers.
Invoking powers under the state of siege in effect since 1984, Barco also authorized confiscation of the property of alleged drug dealers. A nationwide seizure of estates, ranches and businesses continued Tuesday.
Police said 10,972 people had been detained in 467 raids by police and military forces since the sweep began. A communique from national police headquarters said 473 weapons were seized.
Authorities impounded 1,140 cars and trucks, 22 yachts, 135 planes and 15 helicopters, police said. In many cases, they said, aircraft were being grounded only until the owners could prove were purchased legitimately and were used only for legal activities.
Antonio Suarez, president of the National Judicial Employees’ Association, said Colombia’s 4,500 judges and magistrates were ending their strike and forming ″a single front for the salvation of Colombia’s justice system.″
Barco included funds in his emergency package for protection of judges.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Julio London Paredes repeated Colombia’s refusal to let U.S. troops assist in the anti-narcotics campaign.
″The Colombian government will not ask for or permit the presence of foreign troops,″ he said, but added that Colombia needed U.S. logistical aid. He also said the United States and other countries should act against the citizens who provide the market for cocaine.