Two gunmen killed political satirist Jaime Garzón, host of a daily morning show on the Bogotá station Radionet and contributor to a television news program called “Caracol Noticias.” At 6 a.m., as Garzón was driving his Jeep Cherokee to the Radionet studio, two men on a white motorcycle intercepted him, shooting him repeatedly in the head and chest.
Before his death, Garzón had frequently been threatened by Carlos Castaño, leader of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary organization that is fighting against leftist guerrillas. Garzón’s colleagues informed CPJ that the journalist had scheduled a meeting with Castaño for August 14, the day after he was killed. The AUC denied responsibility for Garzón’s death, and it remains unclear who ordered the murder. While some local journalists blame the AUC, others blame drug traffickers or the military. The likely motive would have been Garzón’s contacts with left-wing guerrilla forces.
Before launching his career as a journalist and satirist 10 years ago, Garzón served as an elected official in Sumapaz, a region near Bogotá that is dominated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla movement. More recently, Garzón used his stature as a well-respected broadcaster to negotiate for the release of victims of guerrilla kidnappings. He also served on an independent commission that was mediating between the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), another leftist guerrilla movement, and was scheduled to meet with imprisoned ELN members.
The gunman who shot Garzón allegedly belonged to a criminal band known as La Terraza. Castaño admits he has hired La Terraza to carry out a number of crimes in recent years, including kidnappings. The official government charge sheet accuses him of hiring La Terraza to kill Garzón. In mid-2000, Castaño was officially charged with the murder.