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Anti-drug journalist in Colombia is killed

A leading editorial columnist was shot and killed in the southwest city of Cali, authorities said Friday. It was the second slaying of a Colombian journalist this week.

Police said Gerardo Bedoya Borrero, 55, director of the editorial department of Cali's respected El Pais newspaper, was shot six times by an unidentified gunman as he left an apartment building in the city center Thursday night. He died instantly; his killer sped off on a motorcycle.

Bedoya, a former congressman and Colombian representative to the European Union, took up his post at El Pais five years ago. He also had served as managing editor of the Bogota-based opposition daily El Nuevo Siglo.

He had campaigned from El Pais' editorial pages against the scandal-plagued government of President Ernesto Samper and the corrosive influence of the drug trade on virtually all walks of life in Colombia.

"I prefer gringo intervention in our internal affairs to that of the drug cartels," he wrote in a recent column, referring to charges of U.S. meddling in Colombian affairs.

Local media reports speculated Bedoya's killing may have had something to do with Alvaro Gomez, a veteran leader of the opposition Conservative Party and three-time presidential candidate who was assassinated in Bogota in November 1995. Bedoya was a close collaborator of Gomez, whose killing remains a mystery.

Police offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the Bedoya case.

In a brief letter to the publisher of El Pais, Samper noted that he and Bedoya were fellow students at Bogota's Jesuit-run Javeriana University and expressed sorrow over his killing. He said Bedoya should be remembered for his "sharp, polemical and brilliant temperament" and the "convincing manner throughout his life with which he defended his ideas and principles."

More than 100 journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1975, according to the Inter-American Press Association. The killing of Bedoya came just one day after Freddy Elles, a photographer who worked for Bogota's El Espectador newspaper and El Heraldo de Barranquilla, was found handcuffed and stabbed to death in Caribbean port city of Cartagena.