Police defuse bomb outside Communist Party newspaper office

Bogotá, May 21, 2001 — Police bomb disposal experts defused a “cluster” bomb packed into a Chevrolet Luv pick-up truck outside the offices of the Communist Party newspaper Voz in downtown Bogotá today, a police spokesman said.

The 550-pound bomb was placed directly outside the Voz offices in Bogotá’s central Teusaquillo district and concealed among a load of oranges and bananas. It was not immediately clear what group or individual may have been behind the attempted bombing.

This particular cluster bomb is commercially manufactured in the U.S. to American military specifications and sold throughout the world. Bogotá metropolitan police spokesman Sgt. Alberto Cantillo said the bomb contains TNT and was designed to be dropped from a plane. Bogotá police chief Col. Luis Contento told reporters that the device “would have caused huge devastation” and would likely have destroyed buildings within a two-block radius.

“It is clear that whoever planted this bomb has little regard for human life, let alone freedom of the press,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Colombian authorities to launch an immediate and thorough investigation.”

Carlos Lozano, editor of Voz, said the truck was parked in the street at 4 a.m. local time. When a secretary at the newspaper arrived at work some four hours later, she became suspicious and alerted the police.

Lozano was not at the office when the bomb was defused. After his secretary warned him of the problem, he and his bodyguards immediately left for Communist Party headquarters, located elsewhere in the city.

“We have had a terrible shock. I believe the bombers were waiting for me to arrive before they detonated the device,” Lozano told CPJ. He blamed the bomb plot on outlaw paramilitary groups but did not specify any by name.

Last month, Lozano was named to a four-person commission set up to monitor official efforts to curb paramilitary attacks around the country. The commission was formed by peace negotiators from the government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as part of slow-moving talks aimed at ending the country’s protracted civil war.

The other commission members include a magistrate, a psychiatrist, and another journalist, Ana Mercedes Gómez, director of the regional newspaper El Colombiano.

Voz has been the frequent target of censorship efforts and bomb attacks. Only last month, on April 27, Voz correspondent Flavio Bedoya was killed, in all likelihood because of a series of highly critical reports that the journalist had published about collusion between security forces and right-wing paramilitary gangs in Nariño Department.