Killing deepens Colombia crisis

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The Independent Online
Colombia's political crisis deepened yesterday after a former public prosecutor for the cocaine cartel city of Cali was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the capital, Bogota.

Most Colombians saw the killing of Felipe Lopez as linked to the country's current narco-political scandal, in which President Ernesto Samper has been publicly accused of having ties with Cali cartel members and soliciting cocaine proceeds for his 1994 election campaign.

What was not clear was whether the murder may have been a cartel message to the federal prosecutor-general, Alfonso Valdivieso, the man behind the latest investigation into the alleged drug links of senior politicians including the President. It appeared possible Mr Lopez had been silenced for fear he would testify against senior politicians or Cali cartel leaders, most of whom are in jail awaiting trial.

Mr Lopez worked as regional Cali representative for the federal prosecutor- general's office until last year but resigned when Mr Valdivieso took over from Gustavo de Greiff. The Associated Press quoted a judicial source in Bogota as saying Mr Lopez had been suspected at the time of having ties to drug traffickers.

When he was shot, Mr Lopez was reportedly moving out of his Bogota flat after a series of death threats. He was hit by three bullets in the head in what appeared to be a highly-professional "hit".

Mr Samper is refusing widespread calls for his resignation after two of his senior campaign aides - one of whom, Fernando Botero, became his Defence Minister - accused him of accepting millions of dollars in cocaine money for a campaign which led to a narrow election victory.