Death and Drugs in Colombia


In February 2003, the mayor of a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast stood up at a nationally televised meeting with then President Álvaro Uribe and announced his own murder. “Señor Presidente, I am the mayor of El Roble,” Tito Díaz said as he walked toward the stage where Uribe sat with several cabinet ministers and officials from the state of Sucre, where the meeting was held. Pacing back and forth before the President, Díaz delivered what was probably the first public denunciation of a web of violence and corruption involving politicians and paramilitary groups—what he called a “macabre alliance”—that would eventually become an explosive national scandal. Singling out several local officials, including the governor, Salvador Arana, seated at the President’s side, Díaz declared: “And now they’re going to kill me.” President Uribe listened impassively for several minutes, then cut the mayor off midsentence: “Mr. Mayor, we have allowed this disorder because of the gravity of the matter, but we also ask that you be considerate of our time.” Uribe is a small, tidy man, with a bland face that is boyish yet stern. When he addresses the public, it is with the commanding tone of the wealthy cattle rancher and the intensity of a man on a mission. “With utmost pleasure,” Uribe then assured Díaz that he would order an investigation, “for transparency cannot have exceptions, and security is for all Colombians.” Within weeks, the national police stripped Díaz of his bodyguards. On April 5, 2003, he disappeared. On April 10 his corpse appeared on the edge of Sucre’s main highway.

more from Daniel Wilkinson at the NYRB here.