Judge María Elena Díaz and her two bodyguards were assassinated in Medellín as part of an attack by hitmen on the orders of Pablo Escobar. Connecting the drug trafficker to different legal proceedings was her death sentence.
On July 28, 1989, at 12:30 pm, a group of hitmen sent by Pablo Escobar attacked the vehicle in which the third law enforcement judge, María Elena Díaz Pérez, was traveling. The criminals fired more than 60 gunshots, killing her and her two bodyguards: Dagoberto Rodríguez and José Alfonso de Lima. Her secretary, her driver, and a police intelligence officer (F-2) who was escorting them on a motorbike, were seriously injured.
Díaz Pérez was leading the legal proceedings strictly and with determination, which made the drug traffickers uneasy. She was in charge of the investigation of the rural Punta Coquitos massacre in 1989 in Turbo, Urubá, Antioquia. Pablo Escobar, Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha -alias “El Mexicano”-, and several police officers were alleged to be responsible for this crime.
Díaz refused to revoke the preventive arrest of the suspects on the request of another official. Far from this, days before her death, and in the middle of other proceedings, she stated that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha were sending drug trafficking money to hitmen who operated in the Middle Magdalena Region.
María Elena Díaz assumed the position of law enforcement judge on September 1, 1987, replacing another official who resigned to protect her life after being threatened. She had been part of the judiciary since 1975, as a judge in the municipalities of Angelópolis, Andes and Santuario in Antioquia.
Her honesty and integrity won her a scholarship in Italy from the Minister of Justice, so that she could specialize in criminology. She was organizing this trip just days before her death.
Justice Bleeds Out
In solidarity with her death and to demand better protection from the Colombian Government, more than 2,000 officials of the judiciary went on strike. The Antioquia School of Criminal Lawyers asked the country to “calmly reflect on the serious time the country is going through and particularly the Justice Administration, which has become a sacrificial victim of a cruel wave of violence that only leaves mourning and pain in defenseless homes”.
To stop this escalation of violence, the Colombian Government committed to increase the number of bodyguards for judges. However, the drug traffickers’ destructive power could penetrate any security system.