Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Sixteen-Year-Old Assassin

Jimenez and Ave. Septima, Bogotá's
open-air emerald market.
 When an emerald dealer was gunned down in broad daylinght last Thursday on one of Bogotás most iconic intersections, it probably didn't surprise many.

After all, emerald industry observers had feared violence between rival 'emerald czars' after the death from cancer last April of Victor Carranza, who had ruled the industry for decades.

And last week's victim, Pedro Libardo Ortegón, 64, reportedly had been close to Carranza, even carrying the dead kingpin's coffin at his funeral. Reportedly very wealthy, Ortegón had in the past been linked to paramilitarism and to real estate of questionable origin had been listed under his name.

But I was struck by a different aspect of the crime - the killer was 16 years old.

Is it my imagination, or are fewer esmeralderos
hanging out on the street these days?
According to El Tiempo, the child assassin was recruited in a pool hall in the poor and violent Ciudad Bolivar by unidentified men offering 5 million pesos for the murder. They gave him 2 million pesos up front.

Why would any young man, with his life in front of him, accept such a proposal? Was he a drug addict? Spellbound by the prospect of more money than he could imagine? Was he or his family threatened?

The cowardice and unprincipledness of the men who hired the boy can't be overemphasized. Willing to commit murder, but too cowardly to do it themselves, they didn't mind risking a child's life and future to do their dirty work.

The boy found Ortegón at 3:30 in the afternoon on Jimenez street between Carreras 7 and 8, the center of the open-air emerald market, and shot him in the neck with a silencer-equipped pistol. The boy then ran east on Jimenez Ave., but was captured by other emerald dealers, who might have killed him if police hadn't interceded.

Because he's a minor, the killer will likely only serve a few years. But this crime will follow him his whole life - as it should.

And let's just hope this isn't just the first of more crimes by this boy.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: