Jaime Garzón

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Jaime Garzón
Jaime Garzón Univalle.jpg
Colombian journalist and comedian Jaime Garzón
Born October 24, 1960
Died August 13, 1999 (age 38)
Nationality Colombian
Ethnicity Hispanic
Education [initial education in Seminarian Minor of Bogota] National University (Law, 1980.)
Occupation Journalist, comedian, television producer, lawyer and peace activist.

Jaime Hernando Garzón Forero (October 24, 1960 – August 13, 1999 in Bogotá) was a Colombian journalist, a comedian, lawyer, peace activist and political satirist. He was popular on Colombian television during the 1990s for his political satire. In addition to his work on television, he also had roles as a peace negotiator in the release of FARC guerrillas' hostages. He was allegedly murdered by suspected right-wing paramilitary forces in 1999, according to testimony that implicated the organization's commander.[citation needed] In further testimony, 16 years after the murder, a former paramilitary officer testified in court that the order to kill Garzón was allegedly a conspiracy between former Police Mayor Mauricio Santoyo, National Army General Harold Bedoya and former General Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel and that the murder was carried out by La Teraza, which is a wing of the Medellin drug cartel.[1] The case remains open and unsolved.


Jaime Garzón was born in Bogotá on October 24, 1960. He studied law and political science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, but his active involvement in politics and television did not allow him to finish.[2]

Mayor of Sumapaz

Garzón joined the political campaign of Andrés Pastrana Arango for mayor of Bogotá. After winning the elections, Pastrana nominated him as mayor of Sumapaz, an underdeveloped rural locality in the district, in 1988.[3] Garzón tried to improve the standard of living in Sumapaz. In a year, he created a health center, the school was improved[4] and the only street of town was paved.

But his originality was not well seen by the central administration of Pastrana. Asked in a telegram to notify the number of legal brothels in Sumapaz, he answered: "Después de una inspección visual, informo que aquí las únicas putas, son las putas FARC",[5] a sarcastic answer typical of his sense of black humor, roughly translated as "After a visual inspection, I report that the only whores around here are the fucking FARC", a wordplay, as in Colombian Spanish the word 'putas' could mean both 'whores' as noun, and 'fucking' as an intensifier adjective. That answer and other eccentricities, brought to the conclusion by the central administration that he had founded a brothel in Sumapaz.[6] The municipal government secretary, Volmar Pérez Ortiz, signed his destitution.[5] For this reason, Garzón sued Pastrana's administration; the case was ruled in his favor only in 1997.

Between 1990 and 1994 he worked at the Nariño House during the presidency of César Gaviria. He helped in the translations of the new Colombian Constitution of 1991 into the indigenous languages and as a presidential adviser in communications.[7]


Jaime Garzon in a fictional characters "Heriberto de la Calle", monument installed in Bogotá.

In 1987, the director of the Noticiero de las 7, Antonio Morales Riveira, knew of the fame of the Mayor of Sumapaz in imitating politicians. He brought Garzón to the newscast; it was the first time he would appear on television.[8]

He worked on various television parodies, becoming famous with the TV show Zoociedad (Zoociety) in the 1990s which contained humor about materialistic society and politics. Garzón then started working on a program called "¡Quac! El Noticero", collaborating with actor Diego León Hoyos until 1997.

Garzón created many instantly recognizable fictional characters, the last of which was his debut as "Heriberto de la Calle", a shoe polisher who interviewed different personalities, including politicians.

Year Program Character Producer and channel
1990–1993 Zoociedad Émerson de Francisco con Elvia Lucía Dávila Producciones Cinevisión: Cadena Uno and Cadena Dos
1995–1997 ¡Quac! El noticero With Diego León Hoyos as María Leona Santodomingo: Nestor Elí, Inti de la Hoz, 'companion' Jhon Lenin, 'reporter' Wiliam Garra, Godofredo Cínico Caspa RTI: Cadena Uno
1997 La Lechuza Heriberto de la Calle Caracol Radio

Peace activist

On March 23, 1998, 200 FARC guerrillas kidnapped 32 persons on the Villavicencio - Bogotá road. Among the hostages were four US citizens and an Italian.[9]

On March 27 a commission, with the authorization of anti-kidnapping czar José Alfredo Escobar and led by Garzón, allowed the release of nine of the hostages.[9]

On May 6, 1998, General Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel, commander of the Colombian Army, publicly asked Escobar to investigate Garzón for his participation in the release of the hostages.[10][11] On June 4, Escobar, defended the role of Garzón in the release of the hostages as a humanitarian mission.[11] Garzón tried to have an appointment with General Mora Rangel, but he was not accepted. The journalist sent a telegram to the military where he said: "General, do not look for enemies among the Colombians that risk their life everyday to build a proud nation as I want and as you are fighting for."[12]

In May 1999 Garzón said in a cocktail party in front of some personalities, among them the US Ambassador, that General Mora was accusing him of being a collaborator of the FARC.[13]

On May 25, 1999, Senator Piedad Córdoba was kidnapped by the paramilitary group of Carlos Castaño, and she was accused by him of being a collaborator of the guerrilla.[14] According to Senator Córdoba, Castaño also mentioned Garzón. Once she was released, she met the journalist and warned him of the danger.[15]

The participation in the process of the FARC's hostage releases and the intention to promote a dialogue of peace brought him many threats, but the most noticeable were those from Castaño.[12]


On Tuesday, August 10, 1999, Garzón visited the paramilitary leader Ángel Gaitán Mahecha, who was in the Modelo Prison in Bogotá with the intention to arrange a meeting with Carlos Castaño. The meeting was to be held on August 14 in the Córdoba Department.[12]

On Wednesday, August 11, Garzón said to his wife and a makeup artist that he was going to be killed the next day.[12]

On Friday, August 13, at 5:45, local time, Garzón was approaching the Radionet station in his gray Jeep Cherokee.[16] When he was turning toward the south coming from 26th Street in the Barrio Quinta Paredes sector, in front of Corferias, two men riding a high velocity white motorcycle with hidden plates[16] approached the car and called his name, then shot him five times. He was 38 years old.[12]

The word quickly spread as his own colleagues at Radionet were the first to give the news to Colombia.[17] Hundreds of people went out into the streets. The vehicular traffic worsened when a pedestrian bridge fell onto the North Highway, near 122nd Street, because a group of people thought wrongly that the funeral would pass by the site. Three people died and 30 were injured.[18][19]

On that Friday night, sports presenter César Augusto Londoño for Noticiero CM& had to introduce a memorial note to Heriberto de la Calle, one of the characters of his murdered companion. He introduced the note saying: "that's all for sports ... f***king country!".[20]


According to Judge Julio Roberto Ballén Silva, the AUC reacted against his involvement in negotiations for the release of guerrilla-held hostages on behalf of their family members. There are several versions of what happened in the days preceding his murder. In one of them Garzón was informed of an order to assassinate him; he then contacted Castaño, who scheduled a meeting with him to take place just the day after his murder and sent a counter order to abort the assassination. The order apparently either never reached the actual killers, or came after it was too late. This led some to speculate that the meeting was a trap.[21]

An investigation conducted by the TV program Contravía directed by Holman Morris shows evidence of the participation of agents of the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS, the state intelligence agency) by using false witnesses, and therefore the investigation turned away from the real events.[22] Likewise, the paramilitary leader Freddy Rendón Herrera aka "El Alemán" accused members of the military forces of being intellectual authors of the murder.[23]

Castaño is accused of being the mastermind of the crime

On September 13, 1999, the authorities reacted promptly to guarantee the arrest of the assassins of the journalist. Four people participated in the first investigations as key witnesses of the crime: María Amparo Arroyave Mantilla, Wilson Llano Caballero alias El Profe, Maribel Pérez Jiménez and Wilson Raúl Ramirez Muñoz.[24]

Although it was too early at the moment of the crime and María Amparo Arroyave was on the 4th floor of the building (100 meters from the place of the assassination) and the two criminals wore helmets, she gave a detailed description of one of the assassins' face and clothing.[25]

On August 19, 1999, the Minister of Defense, Luis Fernando Ramírez, along with several commanders of the National Army, did a public declaration as an answer to the suggestion of a journalist, who said that the responsibility for the crime of Garzón fell on the military superiors. They said that such suggestion is defamatory and that they reject and condemn the crime of one of the best journalists of the end of the century, the best humorist and the sharpest critic of the Colombian society of the last decades.[26]

On January 6, 2000, the Police of Medellín arrested Juan Pablo Ortiz Agudelo, alias Bochas. According to the Administrative Department of Security, he was the assassin that shot Garzón and was recognized by María Amparo Arroyave.[25]

On April 24 Carlos Castaño, top leader of the AUC, was formally accused of being the mastermind of the crime.[27] On June 6 he was declared absent defendant.[25]

On September 24, 2001, the Police arrested Edilberto Antonio Sierra Ayala in Belén de Umbría under the accusation of being the other criminal that drove the motorbike.[25]

On January 3, 2002, the tribunal made official the closure of the process. The request of the civil part to review the case was ignored by the tribunal.[25]

Complaints of manipulation of the investigation

On January 21, 2000, the Attorney General was the first entity to put in doubt the veracity of the testimony of María Teresa Arroya Montoya. The Attorney ordered a careful inspection of the place she argued that she saw the crime.[25] According to lawyer Alirio Uribe Muñoz, the Attorney concluded that from the place she said that she saw the crime, it is impossible to observe the details of the assassins. The Attorney found several contradictions in her description and little coincidences with other witnesses, who were nearer to the place of the crime: none of them could remember the face of the assassins, because they were very fast, but none of these inconsistencies were reviewed in the record.[25] But Arroyave Montoya disappeared[24] and the Attorney General Office did not allow the investigation of DAS official Juan Ángel Ramírez García, who contacted Montoya.[25]

In October 2002, Reporters Without Borders and Red Damocles questioned the veracity of another witness that was considered a key witness during the first investigation: Wilson Llano Caballero, alias El Profe, who was presented as an Informant of DAS. He provided with pictures and information about the allegedly murders, alias “Bochas” and “Toño”. He convinced his girlfriend, Maribel Pérez Jiménez, and his neighbor, Wilson Raúl Ramírez, to declare against the two suspects.[24]

Confessions of paramilitary leaders

On March 11, 2004, Judge Julio Roberto Ballén Silva acquitted the two alleged assassins of the journalist. The sentence allowed the opening of the investigation to agents, officials and false witnesses of the first process.[28] The tribunal concluded once more that Carlos Castaño was the mastermind of the crime and sentenced him to 38 years in prison and a fine of 790 million pesos.[28] In April of that very year, Castaño was killed probably by disputes among the same paramilitary members.[29]

On May 9, 2008, the former Paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo alias Don Berna, said that members of the criminal gang La Terraza of Medellín, that served Carlos Castaño, were the assassins of Garzón.[30]

In June 2008, paramilitary leader Jorge Iván Laverde, alias El Iguano, declared before Law of Justice and Peace that the former sub-director of the DAS, José Miguel Narváez, instigated Carlos Castaño to kill Jaime Garzón.[31] A month later, in July, another paramilitary former member, Ever Veloza García alias HH, gave to the Attorney General a USB drive that belonged to Carlos Castaño. He said that in the USB there was the proof that he ordered to La Terraza gang to assassinate Jaime Garzón. Veloza said also that Castaño said in different moments that the crime of Garzón was a mistake and that "it was done to make a favor to some friends of the National Army".[32]

In October 2009 former paramilitary leader Freddy Rendón Herrera, alias "El Alemán", said to Justice and Peace process that Carlos Castaño ordered the killing of the journalist under "specific request of senior military leaders of the time".[33]

Popular culture

Garzón is portrayed by the Colombian actor Jose Manuel Ospina as the character of 'Jairo García' in TV Series Tres Caínes.



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  15. "Lo dije hace siete años y como siempre, rechazaron mis declaraciones". "Sentada en el Restaurante El Patio le dije a Jaime Garzón que lo iban a matar los paramilitares y lo dije cuando salí del secuestro, al igual que le dije lo mismo a Rodrigo Pardo, quien afortunadamente sigue vivo, pero ni el país ni las autoridades le dieron credibilidad a mis palabras". Piedad Córdoba.net. 19 April 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  20. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-5cPRSY0_8
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  22. Video on YouTube
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External links