An unidentified gunman shot and killed Vásquez, news director of the local radio station La Voz de la Selva (The Voice of the Jungle), and tried to kill his colleague Omar Orlando García Garzón, news director of the same station.
The two journalists, who had just finished the first broadcast of their twice-daily news program, were driving home from work in Florencia, a city in southern Caquetá Department that is a former stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest leftist guerrilla group. More recently, the town has become a power base for an anti-Communist paramilitary group linked to the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
García told CPJ that the gunman first shot Vásquez and then aimed at him. Vásquez’s slumped body intercepted the second bullet, which merely brushed García, who was able to give the authorities a detailed description of the killer. The next day, García began receiving threatening phone calls. On July 9, an anonymous caller warned him to leave Florencia on pain of death.
In addition to witnessing the killing, García had assisted Vásquez in documenting corruption implicating local government officials and members of the FARC, the journalist told CPJ.
The journalists had also investigated Caquetá governor Pablo Adriano Muñoz, who was reportedly elected with support from the FARC, for allegedly embezzling public funds. Muñoz accused Vásquez of “persecuting” him, whereupon Vásquez filed a defamation suit against the governor. Vásquez’s lawyer, Carlos Alberto Beltrán, had to flee Florencia after a failed attempt on his life, according to García.
Vásquez stated during one of his broadcasts that if anything happened to him or his family, it would be the governor’s fault.
García reported that Vásquez’s last broadcasts dealt with an AUC communiqué in which the organization announced changes in its local leadership and promised to refrain from kidnapping and extortion.
The journalist’s murder followed those of the station’s former news director, Alfredo Abad López, whom Vásquez had replaced, and another colleague, Guillermo Léon Agudelo. García, his wife, and their two young daughters have since left the country.
On July 11, CPJ issued an alert about Vásquez’s murder.