ALBERTO VILLAMIZAR ; Crusader against Cocaine Cartel
Davison, Phil, The Independent (London, England)
When his wife and sister were kidnapped by the drug baron Pablo Escobar in 1990, the Columbian politician and diplomat Alberto Villamizar persuaded his government not to use force in the search, but to let him negotiate their release himself. After they had spent six horrific months in captivity, he not only won their freedom but later had the satisfaction of personally escorting Escobar to prison.
The story of Villamizar and his wife, Maruja Pachn, were what their countryman Gabriel Garca Mrquez described as "the central axis and guiding thread" of his non-fiction 1996 book Noticia de un secuestro ( News of a Kidnapping), a work he said was "the most difficult and saddest of my life." It was the couple who suggested he write the book, which opens with the violent kidnapping of Maruja and Villamizar's sister Beatriz - their driver was killed - and covers eight other related abductions by Escobar's gunmen around the same time.
Alberto Villamizar had risen to political prominence in the 1980s as an ally of the then president Luis Carlos Galn, and co-founder of the New Liberalism party, whose key policy was to halt not only the spiralling wealth but growing political power base of Escobar and his Medelln cocaine cartel.
Escobar had very much carte blanche in processing and exporting cocaine, with several congressmen in his pay to block action against him, when in 1985 the congressman Villamizar personally pushed through the country's first-ever bill aimed at drug trafficking. But it was his stand on the extradition of traffickers to face trial in the land of most of their exports, the United States, that put him on Escobar's hit list.
Congressmen bought off by Escobar sought to block extradition, citing Colombia'ssovereignty.Villamizar,however,continued to push for extradition in a politicalbattlethatledtothedrugbaronsbeing labelled "the Extraditables." In October 1986, two sicarios (hitmen) emptied their automatic rifles into Villamizar's car in Bogot. The fact that he escaped unhurt was nothing short of "miraculous," according to …
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Publication information: Article title: ALBERTO VILLAMIZAR ; Crusader against Cocaine Cartel. Contributors: Davison, Phil - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 3, 2007. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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