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Slain comic mourned by Colombians

Around 15,000 Colombians crowded in a downtown square Saturday to mourn slain comic Jaime Garzon and express outrage at the chronic political violence that apparently took the life of the country's most beloved satirist.

Addressing the mourners from above Garzon's casket on the Capitol's steps, his sister, Marisol, blamed a "culture of violence" for Friday's killing.

"Jaime's death wasn't just the demented action of a group of bad people. It was the result of a culture of violence that has grown throughout the century. We are all responsible for this violence between brothers _ especially the historic rulers on the left and the right," she said.

As she spoke, people in the front of the crowd chanted: "The government killed him."

Garzon, 38, was shot as he drove to work at a Bogota radio station. The slaying stunned the nation and raised fears that Colombia's civil conflict is spiraling out of control.

The mourners, gathered in the capital's downtown Bolivar Plaza, shouted slogans demanding an end to 35 years of violence in which right-wing paramilitary militias and leftist rebels regularly target civilians they accuse of collaborating with their enemies.

Garzon had worked as an intermediary to release hostages held by leftist rebels and had been active in local elections. But he was best known for his television and radio shows.

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