Questions remain 30 years after presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan was assassinated by Medellin Cartel assassins just south of Colombia’s capital Bogota.
The violent death of the anti-corruption advocate is one of the most traumatic events in Colombia’s recent history and continues to be an open wound.
All that is certain that assassins of late drug lord Pablo Escobar murdered the Liberal Party dissident candidate in collusion with now-defunct intelligence agency DAS, the National Police and at least one political rival.
However, the National Army allegedly also was involved in the elaborate plot that completely blurred the line between the law and the outlaws, and between politics and crime.
Galan, a senator who had founded the New Liberal Party that sought to cut ties between the Medellin Cartel and his former political party, was murdered while on a campaign rally in Soacha, a city just south of Bogota.
Eighteen hitmen were waiting for Galan’s arrival and shot him five times while he climbed on the stage around 8:30 to give a speech. He died on the way to hospital, leaving his country in disarray.
Two of the assassins were shot immediately, while the cartel and the authorities killed the others in the confusing aftermath.
The fake investigation
The director of intelligence agency DAS, General Miguel Alfredo Maza and General Oscar Eduardo Pelaez Carmona, the director of the National Police’s intelligence agency DIJIN, announced four days after the murder that they had found the masterminds of the murder.
According to the intelligence chiefs, Bogota businessman Alberto Alfredo Hazbum and two of his business associates, Hector Manuel Cepeda and Norberto Hernandez, ordered the assassination. They lied.
It took the three men years to prove their innocence as an elaborate plot became evident that implicated Escobar, far-right paramilitaries, one of Galan’s political rivals and the intelligence agencies.
Maza was convicted to 30 years in prison in 2016 for deliberately weakening Galan’s security detail.
Pelaez was criminally charged of being part of the plot in 2017, but has yet to see his first day in court. According to the former intelligence chief, “the Galan family owes me an apology.”
The Inspector General’s Office in 2017 also ordered to investigate the then-deputy commander of the Cundinamarca Police Department, General Argemiro Serna, claiming evidence he was also involved in the plot. Also Serna is still a free man.
The real investigation
The real investigation didn’t begin until emerald miner Pablo Elias Delgadito recognized one of the assassins, Jose Orlando Chavez, on an imagine published in magazine Cromos and told authorities that Chavez was one of the hitmen of Gonzalo Rodriguez, a.k.a. “The Mexican,” one of the founding members of the Medellin Cartel.
Chavez was arrested and named three other assassins, including Jose Everth Rueda, who revealed the murder was the result of a plot between the Medellin Cartel and state authorities in a letter he left before he was assassinated.
Rueda specifically mentioned Lieutenant Carlos Florez, a member of the National Army’s intelligence unit B2, who allegedly provided intelligence to the assassins squad. Florez was absolved by the Supreme Court in 2014 due to a lack of evidence.
The involvement of the Medellin Cartel was later confirmed by former paramilitary commander “Ernesto Baez,” who added that late AUC commander Carlos Castaño and paramilitary commander Henry de Jesus Perez were also involved.
Baez also revealed the ties between the DAS chief and Perez, which would ultimately lead to the conviction of Maza after police officers confirmed the DAS official had been making suspicious changes to Galan’s security detail.
“Popeye,” one of the lieutenants of Pablo Escobar, subsequently said that former Justice Minister and Liberal Party mogul Alberto Santofimio had urged Escobar and his fellow cartel members to kill Galan. This was later confirmed by former congressman Carlos Oviedo.
Oviedo, who had been sentenced for his role in a botched assassination attempt on Galan, was assassinated in 2009. Santofimio was sentenced to 24 years in prison two years later.
The assassination of Rueda, whose letter to his mother led investigators to the Medellin Cartel and their paramilitary associates in the Magdalena Medio Region, leaves questions about the involvement of the National Army.
Florez may have been absolved due to a lack of evidence, but nobody understands how a low-ranking cartel hitman could possibly know of the existence of a military intelligence agent, his alleged ties to paramilitary chiefs and his alleged surrender of intelligence to the assassins squad that killed Galan.
Furthermore, the ties between the Medellin Cartel and the Antioquia chapter of the Liberal Party continue to be a mystery, even though it was on their ticket Escobar got elected to Congress in 1982 and the airplane of the family of former President Alvaro Uribe was found on “Tranquilandia, the cocaine factory of El Mexicano in southern Colombia in 1984.
The wave of violence of the cartel and the paramilitaries killed many witnesses who could have clarified the true extent of Escobar’s ties to Colombia’s politicians, but didn’t. Thirty years after Galan’s assassination, his death is still an open wound for many.