February 14, 1998 |
The 1994 presidential and congressional elections were the most closely scrutinized in Colombian history--not by international observers, but by the Colombian media. Bolstered by constitutional reforms ensuring media freedom, television, radio and newspapers aggressively covered political campaigns and their financing. They kept up their coverage years after the polls closed, as prosecutors unraveled evidence that millions of dollars in drug money had found their way into campaign coffers.
October 27, 1997 |
With bombings, abductions and the election eve killing of a priest, Colombia's two main guerrilla groups violently enforced their boycott of local and state elections Sunday. The government was humiliated as citizens in a large swath of rebel-controlled countryside largely ignored President Ernesto Samper's televised plea Friday that Colombians vote en masse in a symbolic referendum for peace.
September 28, 1997 |
For four years, cattle rancher Felix Antonio Velez felt victimized and helpless. He could do nothing when guerrillas kidnapped and murdered his 80-year-old mother. As they demanded ever-larger fees to "vaccinate" his two sons against the same fate, he could only pay the extortion money. Velez was finally forced to abandon his land in Antioquia province, a battleground among guerrillas, the Colombian army and private armies.
July 28, 1997 |
Five months of nights tossing on the concrete floor of a brightly lighted auditorium and days playing in a makeshift refugee camp's mud and open sewers left Alejandro Perez's 2-year-old daughter shaking with fever. Desperate for money to take her to a big-city hospital, Perez defied Colombia's brutal private militias. Last month, he and his 16-year-old nephew returned to his farm near the Panama border to harvest timber.
June 17, 1997 |
Although President Ernesto Samper said his government is willing "to open a new door to peace" following Sunday's release of 70 soldiers and marines held by guerrillas, officials moved quickly to lower expectations that any negotiated settlement with insurgents is near. "It would be pure euphoria to think that" Latin America's longest civil war is close to ending, said Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia.
March 14, 1997 |
President Ernesto Samper clashed with the nation's highest court, accusing it of political meddling after it overturned his emergency economic plan on grounds that it was unconstitutional. The clash between the executive and judicial branches came after the court, in a 6-3 vote Wednesday, struck down all 16 decrees issued under the state of economic emergency that Samper declared on Jan. 13 to help fight a growing fiscal deficit.
March 8, 1997 |
Just two days after angrily suspending drug-crop eradication over differences with Washington, the Colombian government announced Friday that it was resuming the program, but with greater autonomy. Justice Minister Carlos Medellin declared that spraying would begin again Wednesday and that Colombia would try to pay for the eradication on its own, using assets seized from drug traffickers. The current program is largely underwritten by--and closely coordinated with--the United States.
December 14, 1996 |
In the way Americans have watched the O. J. Simpson trials unfold on television, Colombians have tuned in to keep up with a narco-political scandal that has jailed 14 members of Congress and raised questions about President Ernesto Samper's possible links to drug lords. But Congress this week gave the government a powerful weapon to end the televised saga. Legislators voted to let the government take away the air time of the current owners of newscasts at the end of next year.
September 11, 1996 |
Vice President Humberto de la Calle resigned in exasperation Tuesday--a virtual admission that growing economic turmoil and anarchy will not force President Ernesto Samper out of office. In an emotional presentation at a downtown hotel, De la Calle read a letter of resignation in which he made a desperate plea for the embattled president to step down for the good of the nation.
June 29, 1996 |
Hours after the Colombian Congress earlier this month cleared President Ernesto Samper of ties to drug traffickers, he vowed to spearhead a movement for national reconciliation. Yet many Colombians fear that "reconciliation" is a code word for whitewash and even repression by an administration determined to stay in power despite evidence that the president's 1994 campaign was financed by millions of dollars in drug money.