Friday, December 16, 2011

Guillermo Cano, Journalistic Martyr

El Espectador's old office building on Ave. Jimenez in La Candelaria. During the 1950s Cano worked
 here with future Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

25 years ago today, Guillermo Cano, publisher of the El Espectador newspaper, left his office in northwest Bogotá and was gunned down by two killers on motorcyclists paid by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Cano was a crusading journalist remembered for denouncing the narcos and their corrupting influence on Colombian society. Cano, and his newspaper, paid a bloody price. Three years later, Escobar car bombed El Espectador's printing plant. Meanwhile, several courageous judges who investigated Cano's killing were themselves murdered or forced into exile.

A woman pays her respects at the tomb of presidential
candidate Luis Carlos Galan, assassinated by Pablo Escobar in 1989.
How things have changed since then - and also remained the same. El Espectador was left a poor second in Bogotá's newspaper rivalry. For many years, it retreated to publishing only on Sundays, and today, the less-outspoken El Tiempo is the dominant daily.

Escobar, of course, was hunted down and killed in 1993. His murders, kidnappings and bombings had become too much even for Colombia's corrupted politicians to tolerate. Escobar is now a Medellin tourist attraction, altho it'll take a few more decades for his victims and victims' relatives to die off and for popular media to transform him into a cartoon monster like Caligula or Attila the Hun.

A man reads an article in El Tiempo about the anniversary of Cano's killing.
Cano is remembered more positively. The UNESCO has named a World Press Freedom Prize after him. And Colombia has changed as well. Violence against journalists has declined, altho not disappeared, as has drug-fueled violence.

Yet, more than change, over the past quarter-century drug-fueled violence against journalists has simply shifted north, to Mexico, where 102 journalists have been murdered since 2000. There, there don't appear to be many contemporary Canos willing to denounce drug traffickers and their influence.

In a January 1990 interview with Spin magazine, El Espectador columnist Maria Jimena Duzan observed: "You know, the narcos will always exist as long as the business is lucrative."

Government memorial to Guillermo Cano

Guillermo Cano Foundation

Guillermo Cano autobiography

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: