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Attempted Attack on Communist Party Newspaper

by Vanessa Thursday, Jun. 07, 2001 at 2:28 AM Colombia News, Talk and Links: Straight from the killing fields of Colombia which the world is ignoring, like we ignored Nicaragua, El Salvador and Grenada.

Attempted Attack on Communist Party Newspaper

by Liam Craig-Best and Rowan Shingler on May 29, 2001

During the morning of May 21st 2001, a gigantic car bomb containing 250kg of dynamite was discovered in front of the offices of the Colombian Communist Party's weekly newspaper, "Voz". The bomb, which was hidden under oranges and bananas in the back of a small pickup truck, had been abandoned in front of the offices at around 4am when a vigilant cleaning lady saw a man park the vehicle and then walk off. According to the woman, who preferred not to give her name, "He just walked off and didn't seem to care that all his fruit was lying out in the open in the back of his truck".

Shortly after 8.00am, when it was realised that the pickup truck was definitely suspicious, a special anti-explosives unit arrived on the scene. The unit, which was already on high alert due to the new car bombing campaign that has recently started in Colombia, were fortunately able to deactivate the bomb before it went off.

"No doubt" that the extreme right are responsible

"There is absolutely no doubt that the extreme right are responsible for this attack" said Jesus Gonzalez Luna, the director of the human rights department of the Colombian national labour federation (CUT), "In their sick way they simply cannot tolerate the existence of any media outlet that dares to denounce the daily injustices that they are committing against Colombia's workers and the civilian population in general."

A tragedy of incalculable proportions

Had the bomb exploded it would not only have destroyed the "Voz" offices, and no doubt killed the eight journalists working inside, but would have caused a tragedy of incalculable proportions killing literally hundreds of nearby civilians. The vehicle itself was parked in front of three restaurants facing the newspaper offices and the whole street is full of office blocks, homes and a university faculty. It appears that all of these would have been levelled.

Ten times the amount of explosives

According to Ricardo Mendoza, an anti-explosives expert on the scene, the bomb would have completely destroyed the whole block and partially destroyed two others. "This bomb had ten times the amount of explosives that the bomb in Medellin last week had, and this type of explosive is much more powerful than the one used there". Mendoza also confirmed to us that the bomb was a "North American-made MK-82 bomb" and that it was of a type stocked by military forces in the region.

Police security program discontinued

Earlier this year the Colombian Ministry of the Interior ordered that the police security program that had been in place at the "Voz" offices, precisely to prevent such attacks, be discontinued. Indeed, since the police protection was withdrawn it was only a matter of time before something such as this occurred. It remains to be seen whether the government will reinstate the security program at the newspaper headquarters although if Interior Minister Armando Estrada's comments the following day are anything to go by this looks unlikely. On May 22nd Estrada said that the bomb was harmless and probably only meant to scare people - totally contradicting what we ourselves were told by police anti-explosive experts on the scene.

Paramilitaries blamed

In a statement put out shortly after the event the Central Committee of the Colombian Communist Party blamed paramilitaries for the attempted bombing and also held the government itself responsible due to the lack of security that it provides for targets such as the "Voz" offices. The statement noted that this was only the latest in a long line of attacks against left-wing targets.

Liam Craig-Best & Rowan Shingler are freelance journalists specialising in human rights issues in Colombia. To get on their mailing list email them.

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