The man who directed hit teams against the Colombian cocaine cartel’s Pablo Escobar fingered a disgraced politician yesterday as being behind the 1989 assassination of leading presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.
Alberto Santofimio Botero, a former senator and justice minister, was arrested on Thursday for the killing of Galan – a case that rocked Colombia and deprived the nation of a crusader against drug traffickers and corruption.
John Jairo Velasquez, who led Escobar’s army of assassins, said in a telephone interview from prison with RCN TV that he was present at a meeting with Escobar and Santofimio when the politician recommended Galan be killed.
“Alberto Santofimio Botero had the idea of killing Luis Carlos Galan,” Velasquez said. “Alberto Santofimio recommended that he be killed because the man, with the weapons of the state, would go after Pablo Escobar.”
The attorney general’s office said Santofimio was arrested ”because of the recent discovery of evidence”, but did not specify whether it had anything to do with Velasquez’s alleged eyewitness account.
In 1989, Santofimio was running for the Liberal Party nomination for the 1990 presidential elections.
Galan was a rival candidate, charismatic and likened to John Kennedy. Velasquez said Santofimio showed no hesitation when he told Escobar that Galan should be killed.
“He was 100% calm … he was removing a political enemy from his path,” Velasquez said.
For Escobar, the assassination of Galan meant he would be eliminating a candidate who would likely extradite drug traffickers to the US for trial.
Escobar’s Medellin cocaine cartel fought a bloody war during the 1980s to pressure the government to bar extraditions.
Cartel assassins killed judges, an attorney general, Cabinet ministers, journalists and police.
Hundreds more Colombians died in cartel bomb attacks in Bogota in Medellin.
Galan, who was shot dead while campaigning south of Bogota, was so far ahead in the polls for the 1990 presidential elections he was virtually assured of victory.
Santofimio, 61, faces 40 years in prison if found guilty of Galan’s murder. Santofimio was long known as the ”political godfather” of Escobar, who was shot dead by police in 1993.