Letters   |   Colombia

Colombia: Editor gunned down in restaurant

September 21, 1999

His Excellency Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of the Republic of Colombia
Casa de Nariño
Santa Fe de Bogotá Colombia


Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to condemn the September 16 murder of Guzmán Quintero Torres, editor-in-chief of the daily El Pilónin Valledupar, capital of the northern Cesar Department. We urge you to ensure that those responsible for this heinous crime are brought to justice.

At about 10 p.m. on September 16, Quintero was seated in Los Cardones Hotel and Restaurant, where he often stopped on his way home from work. A gunman walked up to him and shot him repeatedly in the head and chest. The killer escaped on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice. Two colleagues, a photographer and a reporter from El Pilónwho had joined Quintero that evening, were witnesses. The police have been provided with a description of the assassin.

Well respected in his field, Quintero was the co-founder of the Journalists Club of Valledupar (CPV). He was also the local correspondent for Televista, a news program on the regional channel Telecaribe, and a professor at the National Correspondence University (UNAD). His previous positions include director of Radio Caracol in Valledupar, Atlantic coastal region correspondent for NTC television news, and reporter for the Barranquillla-based daily El Heraldo.

The motivation behind the murder of 35-year-old Quintero, who is survived by his wife and two small children, remains unclear. According to his colleagues, Quintero's life had not been threatened recently. He did receive death threats a few years ago after publishing a news item in El Heraldo about the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), an ultra-right paramilitary group that is fighting against left-wing guerrillas.

Quintero laid low for a few months following the threats. When he took up journalism again it was almost exclusively in the field of financial reporting. He apparently did not cover sensitive political topics.

However, Quintero had been looking into the August 11, 1998 murder of Valledupar television journalist Amparo Leonor Jiménez Pallares. According to the attorney general's office, Jiménez was targeted in retaliation for a story she broadcast in 1996 about paramilitary killings of peasants living on a large estate owned by a government official. Jiménez, like Quintero, was killed by a gunman who fled on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice. While the gunman has been caught, there has been little progress in bringing whomever ordered the murder to justice.

Quintero's murder comes only five weeks after the August 13 murder of popular satirist Jaime Garzón in Bogotá. Local sources have informed CPJ that four other Valledupar journalists are currently receiving threats and, increasingly worried about their safety, are trying to leave the country.

CPJ is deeply disturbed by the unremitting violence against Colombian journalists. With the civil war escalating, it is imperative that Colombians be able to turn to the press for objective news. CPJ believes that a free press could play an essential role in bringing peace to Colombia. We urge you, therefore, to see to it that Colombian journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of violent reprisal.

In particular, we urge you to ensure that authorities launch a rigorous investigation into the murders of Quintero and his colleagues who have suffered the same fate. We would appreciate receiving any new information that arises during the investigations.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director





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His Excellency Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of the Republic of Colombia
Casa de Nariño
Santa Fe de Bogot&Aaacute; Colombia

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