Colombia’s ex-spy chief on trial for 1989 killing of election candidate

Luis Carlos GalánThe former director of Colombia’s intelligence service returned to court this week to face charges of complicity in the assassination of a leading presidential hopeful, who was gunned down in 1989 by a powerful drug cartel. Luis Carlos Galán, a senator and former minister, was tipped to win the 1990 presidential election in which he stood on the Liberal Party ticket. His popularity with the electorate is largely attributed to his uncompromising stance against Colombia’s powerful drug cartels. He had vowed to arrest leading drug lords and send them to the United States to face criminal charges. He would do so, he said, after signing a mutual extradition treaty with Washington. However, Galán was assassinated on August 18, 1989, during a campaign rally in Soacha, a working-class suburb of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. The assassination took place before thousands of spectators who were present at the rally, and is considered one of the highest-profile political killings in the history of Colombia.

A notorious hitman for the Colombian mafia, John Jairo Velázquez, was convicted of Galán’s killing. Velázquez admitted in court that had been ordered to kill the Liberal Party senator by Pablo Escobar and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez, the two most senior leaders of the powerful Medellín Cartel. In 2007, a former justice minister and presidential hopeful, Alberto Santofimio, was convicted of helping organize Galán’s murder. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for the killing.

On Monday, another senior government figure, General Miguel Maza Márquez, was taken to court to face charges of complicity in Galán’s assassination. Maza headed Colombia’s highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) in the late 1980s, and he has been in jail since 2013, awaiting trial for the murder. The prosecution alleges that Maza appointed a DAS officer who had known links to the Medellín Cartel as the head of security for Galán, and that he did so to “help the hitmen carry out the assassination”. This is the second time Maza is standing trial for Galán’s murder. He faced the same charges in 2012, after surrendering himself to justice in 2009, following two years in hiding. He denies all charges against him.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 03 June 2015 | Permalink:

Former Colombian spy director surrenders in assassination probe

Maza Marquez

Maza Marquez

Miguel Maza Marquez, a fugitive from justice who briefly directed Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS) in the late 1980s, has turned himself in at a DAS academy. His arrest was ordered in June by the office of the Colombian Attorney General, in connection with the 1989 assassination of reformist Colombian politician Luis Carlos Galán. Galán, who was the leading presidential candidate at the time of his assassination, gained his popularity by declaring himself an enemy of Colombia’s drug cartels, such as those led by Pablo Escobar and Gonzalo Rodríguez. On August 18, 1989, Galán was shot in the face during a pre-election rally in Soacha, on the outskirts of Bogota. Prosecutors investigating his assassination allege that Maza Marquez, whose Department was responsible for Galán’s bodyguards, intervened to make suspicious changes to Galán’s security detail on the night of his assassination. Some say that Maza Marquez was acting on orders from notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar himself.

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