The 15th anniversary this Wednesday of the death of beloved Colombian comedian and reporter, Jaime Garzon, comes at a time when a vital suspect in his assassination case has been arrested.
The assassination of Jaime Garzon, which his two siblings and international law consider a human rights crime, occurred on August 13, 1999 when two hit-men on a motorcycle shot him five times as he was driving to work in Bogota.
The nation was shocked, as he was widely considered the leading comedian and social commentator of his day.
The comedian’s favorite targets on his national TV show were politicians, the military, the media, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers. No one was exempt.
Garzon had a talent for putting Colombia’s most powerful figures in the spotlight and having the nation join him in laughing at them. He had many personalities and skits during his shows, but his most popular was ‘Heriberto de la Calle,’ a simple shoe shiner. As Heriberto, Garzon would interview Colombia’s most powerful politicians and elites while buffing and shining their shoes.
Besides the family show he would air weekly, Garzon was also a peace and political activist.
Garzon was humble enough to connect intimately with all sectors of society, but also unrestrained in his search for laughter in a country being torn apart by civil war and narcotrafficking.
Using his popularity and name, Garzon was actively involved in attempting to create a more peaceful and just nation. Garzon would serve as a mediator between the state, victims, and the country’s armed guerrilla groups. On several occasions, he mediated the release of kidnapped civilians from the hands of the FARC and ELN, according to Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper.
It was most likely these gestures of peace that he helped orchestrate which resulted in AUC paramilitary leader, Carlos Castaño, labeling him as a “guerrilla collaborator.”
15 years, no laughter or smiles or justice
According to Garzon’s brother, Alfredo Garzon, his murder was orchestrated by high level military officials with cooperation of the paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño.
However, after 15 years of without anyone being held accountable for his murder, it would seem the search for the truth surrounding Garzon’s assassination is making progress. Despite the fact that six key witnesses regarding the Garzon case have been murdered, there may still be hope and justice for the Garzon family.
This year’s anniversary comes in the midst of the arrest of retired army colonel, Jorge Eliecer Plazas. According to the testimonies of paramilitaries, Plazas was central in the army’s planning of the murder of Garzon.
“The capture of Plazas Acevedo is excellent news for our judicial process because it gets us closer to the truth. The connections the military has with those that committed the crime are beginning to be clear,” said Alfredo Garzon in an interview with El Espectador.
In the interview, Alfredo asserts that Garzon was killed “for his work promoting peace. He was named as a moderator for peace talks with the ELN when after two imprisoned ELN commanders begin calling him on his cellphone, which was not seen very nicely by the army who hands the transcripts to Carlos Castaño via Miguel Narvaez.”
The trial of former intelligence agency (DAS) director José Miguel Narvaez also began last year.
“The orders came from high up the military command and this is not a theory, this has been super proven,” said Garzon’s brother.