Drug Lords Vow War; Bomb Offices; 1 Killed
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Drug gangs bombed two political party offices Thursday, burned the homes of two politicians in Medellin, and declared ″total war″ on the government for cracking down on them. One person was killed.
President Virigilio Barco on Thursday issued a series of new emergency decrees that heighten the nation’s battle against drug traffickers.
The anti-narcotics sweep was spurred by the assassination last week of Luis Carlos Galan, a leading presidential candidate who promised to curb drug trafficking.
The outpouring of public rage has made many Colombians hope the battle against the cocaine barons can be won this time.
Clara Obregon Lopez, a former Bogota city council member, said: ″The indignation is so strong that it’s not leaving room for fear,″ she said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the declaration of war on the Colombian government ″certainly heightens the concern about security, both for the Colombian government and for ourselves.″
Officials say about 100 U.S. officials are connected with the embassy in Bogota and about two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents are in the country. The State Department said it had no immediate plans to evacuate U.S. personnel.
Police said one person was killed in the bombing of a wing of Liberal Party offices in Medellin, an industrial city that serves as a base for a cartel believed to supply as much as 80 percent of the cocaine distributed in the United States.
Also bombed was the Conservative Party headquarters, police said.
The attackers set fire to the vacation homes of two prominent politicians, former Finance Minister Edgard Gutierrez of the Liberal Party and Conservative Sen. Ignacio Velez Escobar.
Officials said they found powerful bombs hidden in suitcases left at the Medellin offices of two national radio networks, Caracol and Radio Cadena Nacional. The explosives were found and defused.
At the Caracol station, the bombers left behind a statement dated signed by ″The Extraditables,″ a group known to carry out attacks for the Medellin cartel.
″We declare total and absolute war on the government, on the industrial and political oligarchy, on the journalists that have attacked and ravaged us, on the judges that have sold out to the government, on the extraditing magistrates, on the presidents of the unions and all those who who persecuted and attacked us,″ it said.
″We won’t respect the families of those who have not respected our families,″ it added. ″We will burn and destroy the industries, the properties and the mansions of the oligarchies.″
The bombed Liberal Party offices belonged to a faction of the party that sponsored Galan’s presidential candidacy. The explosion blew in the front and part of the roof of the one-story concrete and brick building.
The office’s director, Gustavo Garcia, said the person killed was a passer- by.
All the attacks occurred between midnight and 4 a.m.
″It wasn’t exactly a surprise. When these people make a threat, they carry it out,″ a senior State Department official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Barco issued decrees Thursday that would oblige traffickers to come out of hiding to reclaim an estimated $200 million in property and goods confiscated in the crackdown.
They require owners to personally make claims for restitution, barring them from using the lawyers, agents and middlemen routinely employed by the drug kingpins.
The decrees also gave traffickers just 10 days from the seizure to make such claims or the state becomes the owner of the seized property, which would be distributed among needy Colombians and government branches.
Galan, a critic of Colombia’s massive dependence on the drug trade, was gunned down just before he was to give a campaign speech on Friday. Police said drug traffickers had placed a $500,000 price on his head.
The known leaders of the Medellin cartel are Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. None of three was among the hundreds of people arrested since Galan’s killing.
In New York, Gacha was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on heroin importation charges.
The most prominent alleged drug figure arrested so far is Eduardo Martinez Romero. Police and U.S. authorities said they were trying to arrange speedy extradition of Martinez, an alleged money manager for the Medellin cartel.
Barco has established emergency procedures for extraditing traffickers wanted in the United States.
The Supreme Court nullified the extradition treaty with Washington in June 1987, after years of intimidation of the judiciary. At least 220 judges and other officials have been killed.