Conservative Leader Kidnaped in Colombia

From Times Wire Services

Conservative leader Alvaro Gomez Hurtado, twice a presidential candidate and an executive with the newspaper El Siglo, was kidnaped Sunday, and a bodyguard was killed by gunmen who opened fire as Gomez left church, police said.

The gunmen escaped in a car they later blew up with a dynamite charge about two miles away, police reported.

Radio stations said that Gomez, 69, the son of former President Laureano Gomez, may have been wounded in the abduction.

An anonymous person claiming to be one of the kidnapers called the Bogota radio station Todelar. Then a voice, sounding like that of Gomez, said, “Oh, oh, I’m dying.”


Todelar played a recording of the telephone call.

Gomez was a presidential candidate of the Conservative Party in 1974 and again in the 1986 elections won by Liberal President Virgilio Barco Vargas. Gomez polled 2,586,825 votes against 4,211,826 to Barco.

There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction of Gomez, director of the Bogota morning daily El Siglo. In editorials, he has consistently called for “a country free of guerrillas.”

The abduction could have been carried out by either left-wing guerrillas or drug traffickers fighting extradition to the United States, political observers said.


Barco said from Lisbon, where he was ending a three-day official visit to Portugal, that the kidnaping was an attempt at undermining democracy and institutions and creating an atmosphere of intimidation.

Gomez was leaving church in the northern part of the Colombian capital when the kidnapers jumped him.

“I had said goodby (to Gomez) and had walked maybe 15 steps when I heard the sound of submachine guns,” said a former senator, Alfonso Palacio.

“I hit the ground and then I saw four men pushing him (Gomez) into a car,” Palacio said in a broadcast interview with radio station RCN.


Bodyguard Dies

Gomez’s only bodyguard was hit by 14 bullets and died in a hospital, police said.

Army and police immediately cordoned off this city of 5 million, blocking the main thoroughfares while helicopters flew over.

Police said that about 30 minutes after the kidnaping, they found an abandoned car similar to the one in which Gomez was abducted. The car was on fire and exploded, they said.


Gomez has been a strong critic of violence by both guerrilla and drug traffickers. His son, Mauricio Gomez, fled to Madrid last year after he received kidnaping threats. He is still living in Madrid.