Rafael Enrique Prins Velásquez

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An armed gunman on a motorcycle shot Prins at least six times when he was in a park in the northern city of Magangué, according to news reports. Prins died at a local hospital, according to reports.

Prins published and wrote for Apocalipsis, a small critical newspaper that he distributed on the streets of Magangué. In the paper, he often criticized Jorge Luis Alfonso López, Magangué’s mayor from 2004 to 2007, as well as right-wing paramilitaries, who in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s colluded with the Colombian army and local politicians and landowners to target Marxist guerrillas and suspected leftists.

Prins, 43, was also a left-wing politician who was serving on a neighborhood council in Magangué at the time of his death. Prior to this, he also briefly served in Alfonso López’s administration as a transportation official, but soon resigned from the position citing widespread corruption, according to news reports.

In 2010, the Colombian inspector general’s office, which investigates government corruption, banned Alfonso López from serving in public office for 20 years after accusing him of illegal contracting. In early 2015, he was also under investigation for money laundering. Alfonso López is the son of Enilse López Romero, a Magangué businesswoman who in 2011 was sentenced to nine years in prison for her ties to paramilitaries and, in early 2015, was under investigation for laundering drug money. His brother, Héctor Julio Alfonso Lopez, is a former congressman and senator.

On December 31, 2014, Alfonso López was convicted on charges of ordering the murder of Prins, according to news reports. A Bogotá judge sentenced him to 39 years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $1 million in fines. During the year-long trial, former paramilitaries testified that Alfonso López had ordered them to murder Prins because the mayor was upset over the journalist’s critical coverage of his administration. In his articles, Prins had accused the mayor of corruption involving the municipal health and transportation agencies and of having links to paramilitaries, according to news reports.

“In a meeting, Jorge Luis told me that Prins had to be killed because he had gone way overboard in the last edition” of the newspaper, a former paramilitary, whose identity was not revealed, testified during the trial. “They were exasperated that he was revealing everything and making [the mayor] look bad in front of the people.”

None of the alleged paramilitary gunmen have been charged, according to Jonathan Bock, who heads the journalist security program for the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom FLIP, told CPJ. Alfonso López, who was being held in a prison in the northern city of Barranquilla, was expected to appeal the conviction, Bock told CPJ.