Two journalists murdered

Bogotá, December 14, 2000 — Early yesterday morning, two men on a motorcycle killed radio journalist Alfredo Abad López as he was saying goodbye to his wife outside their home in the southern Colombian city of Florencia.

Abad was the director of Voz de la Selva (“Voice of the Jungle”), a local affiliate of the national Caracol radio network. His murder came two weeks after a colleague, Guillermo León Agudelo, was stabbed to death by two men who had forced their way into his home. At the time, police said Agudelo might have been murdered for refusing to pay an extortion demand.

Florencia police chief Col. Henry Calderón told CPJ that Abad, 36, was sitting in his car talking to his wife at 5:50 a.m. yesterday when two men drove up on a red motorcycle and fired a volley of bullets at point-blank range from a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a .38 revolver. He was hit by at least four shots in the stomach, chest, and head; it was unclear what the motive for the killing was or who the attackers could have been, Calderón said.

Florencia, in southern Caquetá province, is a former stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla organization. More recently the town has become a power base for an anti-Communist paramilitary group linked to Carlos Castaño’s United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

A colleague at Voz de la Selva said Abad had been director there for the last two years. Previously he worked as a reporter for RCN, a rival radio network. At the time of his death, Abad, a professionally trained journalist from Bogotá, was also teaching journalism at Florencia University.

Abad’s colleague said the journalist had not spoken of receiving any threats. A confidential source familiar with Florencia’s right-wing and left-wing militant groups said Abad appeared to have been murdered by paramilitary gunmen after he began investigating Agudelo’s death two weeks ago.

Agudelo, 47, was bound, gagged, and then stabbed to death by two men who broke into his home in Florencia on November 30, police said. During the attack, Agudelo’s maid was assaulted, tied up, and locked in a bedroom.

Police initially concluded that Agudelo had been killed during a robbery attempt. But a police spokesman later told CPJ that the most credible theory was that he had been murdered for refusing extortion demands. The spokesman ruled out any connection between the murder and Agudelo’s work as a journalist for Voz de la Selva.

Both the FARC and the paramilitary units operating in the region often resort to extortion to fund their operations. Common criminals also use the tactic regularly. Police declined to speculate about who might have been behind the killing.

Local sources told CPJ that Agudelo, a self-taught journalist, was formerly the director of Ondas del Orteguaza, another local radio station linked to the national Todelar network. In addition to his journalistic work, he once served as warden of the town prison, and as mayor of the town of La Montañita, just east of Florencia. He also ran a taxi in Florencia, police sources said.

Agudelo was formerly a member of the Conservative Party, but later developed close links with the Liberal Party. One local journalist said Agudelo often promoted various political agendas on the air.

“We will closely monitor the investigations into these brutal killings,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ hopes that the motive for each will be established promptly and the perpetrators brought to justice.”