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Jaime Garzón
August 13, 1999


As a journalist, Garzon injected political humor into his radio and TV programs on the news in Colombia. He presented his irreverent point of view – critical and sarcastic -- using the characters he created that became popular throughout the country: Godofreno the Cynic, an intolerable Conservative from Bogota who knew law but wasn’t a lawyer; the shoeshine man, Streetman Heriberto, who became a kind of national conscience; Dioselina, the careless cook at the presidential palace and a building doorman, Nestor Eli, who was a spokesman for the government and for enemies of the State.

JAIME GARZONwas a man who lived for journalism and what he could do for his country. Just as he had close ties to important sectors within the national government and military leaders, he also maintained contact with the FARC and to a lesser degree with the ELN. For a time these contacts made possible the release of some of the national and foreign hostages kidnapped by guerrillas.

An idealist, his goal was to negotiate a plan that would end the eternal conflict in Colombia and unlock the much sought-after peace process. He worked toward that goal. Although he carried the rebel flag for a few months when he was young, he never took part in fighting and soon became disenchanted, preferring to return to normal civilian life, studying law and political science.

As a close friend and supporter of the relatives of hostages, some accused him of financial gain from the releases, causing Conservatives to stigmatize him as "the ambassador of the guerrillas,” and the paramilitary United Self-Defense of Colombia, AUC, to declare him a military target. Some editors argued that obtaining releases was a way to promote kidnappings. The army viewed him with suspicion.

On the morning of August 13, 1999, Garzón was driving his Jeep to the Radionet station for his program when two gunmen on a motorcycle without license plates shot.him to death.

Who killed the journalist-humorist? One strong theory put the blame on AUC leader Carlos Castano. Another, held up by several versions and confessions, blamed the military.  And even the FARC, it was said, could have eliminated him.

After years of investigations, the Attorney General requested that the case be closed and Castano accused of being the mastermind behind the crime and the hitman Juan Pablo "Balls" Ortiz of being the killer. But government organizations warned that doing so would constitute an act of impunity by failing to fully investigate alleged military involvement, an omission that IAPA investigations proved. The family of Jaime Garzón also believed this and sued the Colombian government in civil court for not properly protecting him as an official hostage-release mediator and for police involvement in the crime.

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