Senator Slain in Colombia; Violence Persists as National Election Nears

<i> Reuters</i>

Gunmen shot to death a senator closely allied to presidential front-runner Cesar Gaviria in the cocaine center of Medellin on Monday, part of a wave of violence sweeping Colombia before Sunday’s national election.

In a separate incident, a bodyguard defused a bomb with its fuse already lit at a Bogota school where two of President Virgilio Barco Vargas’ granddaughters are pupils, a radio report said.

In Medellin, local radio reported that Sen. Federico Estrada Velez, 63, of the ruling Liberal Party, and his driver were slain by two gunmen at a traffic light. Estrada, a senator for Antioquia province, whose capital is Medellin, was a close ally of Gaviria, the Liberal Party candidate who is favored in public opinion polls to win the election.

The government blames drug traffickers for the rash of violence before the presidential balloting that will decide the future of Barco’s tough anti-drug policy. Three presidential aspirants have been assassinated in nine months.


RCN radio said that a bodyguard of Barco’s daughter, Carolina, defused 170 pounds of dynamite found in garbage bags at a northern Bogota school where two of Barco’s granddaughters attend classes. Carolina Barco and her daughters Adriana and Alejandra were in the school building at the time.