Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pablo Escobar, Still Making News

Pablo Escobar dead on a Medellin rooftop.
Almost two decades after a hit squad shot him to death on a Medellin rooftop, cocaine king Pablo Escobar still makes news.

This time, it's the aftermath of one of Escobar's most notorious crimes: the 1989 assassination in south Bogotá of Liberal party presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, a fierce critic of corruption and narcotrafficking.

Luis Carlos Galan
According to prosecutors, drug traffickers, the DAS secret police and rival Liberal Party Politician Alberto Santofimio all conspired to kill Galan. Yesterday, Santofimio, who had been Minister of Justice and a long-time senator himself, as well as a contender to be the Liberal party's presidential candidate, was sent to prison for 23 years for helping plan the killing.

Galan's tomb, in Bogotá's
Central Cemetery.
The court ruling reminds Colombians of a nightmarish time when Escobar and other drug lords held the nation under siege, carrying out bombings, kidnappings and assassinations across the country. In fact, during that same campaign, four presidential candidates were assassinated, and Escobar also bombed a passenger plane in a failed attempt to kill the eventual winner, Galan's replacement Cesar Gaviria. (Gaviria had been tipped off and did not board the flight.)

Escobar and Santofimio having fun together.
The sentencing also demonstrates how accepted Escobar and other drug lords were by Colombia's political and business elite. Santofimio was implicated in part by a photo showing him and Escobar partying together on a boat on Escobar's estate. And Escobar even got himself elected senator and took a seat in Congress. In contrast, Galan was exceptional in denouncing  the drug cartel leaders. Apparently, Santofimio wanted Galan out of the way so that he could himself run for president. Santofimio was also convicted on the strength of testimony by one of Escobar's paid assassins, now imprisoned, nicknamed Popeye.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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