Cocaine Cartel Chief Charged in Presidential Candidate's AssassinationTOM WELLS , Associated Press
Sep. 25, 1990 10:15 PM ET
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A judge operating in secrecy has charged Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin drug cartel, with last year's assassination of a presidential candidate during a campaign rally, the court said Tuesday.
Colombia's new president, Cesar Gaviria, has said Escobar would be extradited to the United States if captured.
Escobar was charged with planning and ordering the murder of Luis Carlos Galan, cut down by automatic weapons fire as he prepared to deliver a speech in a poor Bogota neighborhood on Aug. 18, 1989.
The killing provoked then-President Virgilio Barco to begin a crackdown on drug traffickers that developed into a bloody war with the cartel.
The name of the judge ordering Escobar's arrest was kept secret lest he be murdered, according to a communique from Colombia's federal court system.
In the last nine years, 228 judges and other court employees have been slain, mostly by drug traffickers who could not bribe or threaten them into silence.
Escobar also has been charged in the March 1989 killing of leftist presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo and in the December 1987 slaying of Guillermo Cano, owner of the Bogota daily El Espectador.
He also is wanted for planning a car bomb explosion which killed 63 people last December in front of the secret police headquarters of Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez.
Gaviria has said fewer extraditions will take place under his government, but prominent cartel leaders still would be charged in the United States. Colombia has major problems in prosecuting the powerful drug lords, who can easily pay off or threaten police, judges and jailers.
Last week, Eduardo Rueda, an alleged triggerman in Galan's shooting, escaped from La Picota Prison in Bogota. The daily El Tiempo quoted investigators as saying Rueda paid more than $250,000 in bribes to walk out.
In a speech Tuesday, Gaviria attacked the latest round of intimidation by drug traffickers - the kidnapping of seven Colombian journalists.
''Millions of Colombians are closing ranks to demand the safe return of these people,'' he told reporters and others who began a drive to free the reporters.
Six of the journalists, including Diana Turbay de Uribe, daughter of former President Julio Cesar Turbay, disappeared on Aug. 30.
Francisco Santos, 28, news editor of El Tiempo, was kidnapped last Wednesday.
El Tiempo said it later received an anonymous phone call from a man claiming to speak for the Medellin cartel, who said its members want the government to grant them full pardons, as it has done with leftist guerrillas who surrender weapons.
Gaviria has said there will be no negotiations with drug traffickers.