10/10/1989
Assassination of El Espectador Manager Martha Luz López

As part of Escobar’s persecution of El Espectador, Martha Luz López was assassinated, the manager of this newspaper in Medellín. Photograph: El Espectador.

Photograph: El Colombiano.

Martha Luz López, manager of El Espectador in Medellín, was assassinated by Pablo Escobar’s hitmen when entering her home. This was part of a plan to destroy the newspaper that revealed the connections of the congressman at the time to drug trafficking.

The administrative manager of El Espectador, Martha Luz López, was assassinated on October 10, 1989, by hitmen of the Medellín Cartel. At 12:30 pm, when she was going to park her Renault 9 in the garage at her house located in El Poblado, Medellín, the criminals, traveling in a taxi and on a motorbike, shot her several times causing serious injuries.

López, aged 35 years, was taken to the Soma Clinic, where she died when the doctors tried to stabilize her. At the time of the attack, she was with her mother, who was shot in her left leg and needed surgery.

Origin of the Persecution of El Espectador

In 1976, El Espectador reported that Pablo Escobar had been arrested for possession of cocaine. Years later, on August 25, 1983, its editor in chief, Guillermo Cano, published another photograph of the drug lord’s mugshot, who at the time was an alternate member of congress. Two months later, Colombian Congress stripped Escobar of parliamentary immunity. His political career ended and he became a fugitive.

Therefore, the Medellín Cartel’s attacks against the newspaper did not end. As well as the assassination of its editor in chief, Guillermo Cano, three years before; just one month before the attack on López, a car bomb had exploded at the Bogotá headquarters on September 2, 1989, half destroying the building and wounding 73 people.

Days of Fear in Medellín

he press offices seemed more like war barracks than a newspaper. There were frequent personal threats. (…) We worked under the threat of terrorism.;Guillermo Cano.

There was a sense of unease in the capital of Antioquia, as all the members of the press office were declared targets of Escobar. The intimidations did not let up and included forbidding the newspaper’s circulation, burning newspapers, sending funeral crowns or mortuary assistance and making threatening calls to the employees’ homes and offices.

Escobar had given the order to kill three important figures in Medellín, that is Martha Luz López, circulation manager Miguel Soler and editor Mario Atehortúa. The criminals followed the order and the same day at 2 pm, moments after the attack against López, they murdered Miguel Soler when he was leaving his house in the Santa Gema neighborhood.

After these crimes, the journalists who worked for the newspaper in Medellín received new threats that said they should resign from their jobs and that they would prevent the newspaper’s distribution in the city at all costs.

Love for the Trade

Martha Luz López’s refusal to resign from El Espectador cost her life. She did not resign because, according to her close family, she never received direct threats as the intimidating messages were sent to the press office.

Journalist Carlos Mario Correa, correspondent for 13 years at El Espectador in Medellín, remembers López as a friendly person empowered by her position, who strictly managed the money and supplies for running the office. “She was a successful seller of advertising and subscriptions. The newspaper had more than 5,000 subscribers in Medellín,” says Carlos Mario.

The Extraditables said they were responsible for this crime and made it clear that there were only two options in their war against the media: silence or death.

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