New York, May 16, 2012– The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Tuesday’s attack on Fernando Londoño, a radio talk show host and former high-ranking government official. Londoño was injured in a bombing in Bogotá that killed his driver and bodyguard.
“Colombian democracy depends on the ability of everyone to express their ideas and debate policy through the media,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s Executive Director. “This abhorrent attack stifles that debate.”
A man wearing a wig and posing as a street vendor apparently attached the bomb with magnets to the hood of an armored SUV that was stuck in traffic and carrying Londoño, who sustained a concussion and chest injuries, but was out of danger at a Bogotá hospital, according to news reports. More than 40 other people were injured.
Londoño, a controversial figure who was implicated in a number of corruption scandals and forbidden from holding public office for 15 years, served as minister of the interior and justice in the first term of former President Alvaro Uribe from 2002-2004. Since leaving his government position, Londoño has been the director of “La Hora de la Verdad,” an opinion program broadcast by the Bogotá station Radio Súper, and writes an opinion column for the Bogotá daily El Tiempo and other newspapers.
Although President Juan Manuel Santos and other Colombian officials refused to pinpoint blame for the bombing, Gen. Luis Eduardo Martínez, commander of the Bogotá police force, said there was “strong evidence” the attack was the work of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a Marxist rebel group.
Londoño, who was stridently anti-FARC while in government, has continued to harshly criticize the group on his radio program and defend the conservative policies of the Uribe administration. In his program broadcast shortly before Tuesday’s bombing, Londoño criticized a proposed amendment to the Constitution which could open the doors to peace talks with the FARC by providing rebels who disarm with judicial immunity for many crimes and allowing them to participate in politics. News reports suggested the attack may have been related to the amendment, which was scheduled for a vote Tuesday. The amendment was passed by Congress later in the day.
Although political violence in Colombia, and particularly the capital, has declined in recent years, French journalist Roméo Langlois has been detained by the FARC since April 28, when he was captured during a confrontation between the rebels and the Colombian armed forces.