30/04/1984
Assassination of Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla

For Paulo Lara, the watch that his father, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, was wearing the day he was assassinated symbolizes the start of a new time to forgive.

The assassination of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, his denunciations and his fight against the drugs trade changed the country’s history. Photograph: El Espectador.

The Minister of Justice was traveling down Calle 127 in the north of Bogotá when he was attacked by two hitmen. Photograph: El Mundo.

Rodrigo Lara was hit by a bullet in the left side of his chest, which led to the suspicion of the possible collusion of some of his bodyguards. Photograph: El Espectador.

By killing Lara Bonilla, the drug traffickers wanted to intimidate other defenders of extradition. Photograph: El Espectador.

Lara spoke about Escobar’s mysterious wealth, his aircrafts and his great charity works. Photograph: El Mundo.

On September 17, 2012, the assassination of Minister of Justice Lara Bonilla was declared a crime against humanity. Photo: Family archive.

The Medellín Cartel assassinated Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla for daring to connect the congress member at the time, Pablo Escobar Gaviria, with drug trafficking, for warning about the presence of illegal money in sport and politics, and for supporting the extradition treaty of Colombians to the United States.

On April 30, 1984, the Medellín Cartel’s hitmen assassinated the Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla when he was driving an unarmored white Mercedes Benz down Calle 127 in north Bogotá. The assassins approached the vehicle on a red motorbike and moments later, the motorbike passenger, Iván Darío Guizado Álvarez, fired several bursts of a machine gun against the right window, which ended the 37-year-old politician’s life.

The two bodyguards who accompanied him inside the vehicle escaped unharmed. He was also protected by two trucks and the bodyguards in one of them reacted and shot Guizado. The motorcycle driver, Byron de Jesús Velásquez Arenas, was captured.

On September 2012, this assassination was declared a crime against humanity, which means that the investigation will not expire. The Colombian state was established as the mastermind. The fact that Lara Bonilla was driven to his house to change car before taking him to the clinic, as well as other details, including a bullet found in the left side of his chest, led to the investigation suspecting institutional responsibility.

Revelations and Confrontations

The Medellín Cartel had Lara Bonilla in its sights since he made Pablo Escobar’s criminal record public knowledge -first when he was a member of congress and later as Minister of Justice- for drug trafficking and belonging to the Muerte a Secuestradores (Death to Kidnappers or MAS) movement.

In response to these accusations, Jairo Ortega -holder of the seat for which Escobar Gaviria was the alternate in the Chamber of Representatives-, denounced Rodrigo Lara Bonilla for allegedly having received money from the mafia.

The only way I have to show the country that I am an honorable person is to risk my life against the mafia. I am ready to do that”.Rodrigo Lara Bonilla.

Rodrigo Lara Bonilla also filed a series of legal proceedings against the drug bosses. Thanks to his denunciations and the conduct of the judges, the Chamber of Representatives lifted parliamentary immunity from Pablo Escobar.

But the blow that neither Escobar nor his partners would forgive Lara Bonilla for was the operation carried out in 1984 in coordination with the Drug Enforcement Operation (DEA, for the Spanish original) and Police Colonel Jaime Ramírez Gómez. This shut down Tranquilandia, a coca production complex in the fields of Yarí in Caquetá, where they seized several small planes, helicopters and cocaine ready for export.

Defense of Institutions

Lara Bonilla’s political life started when he was very young. He was Mayor of Neiva, the city where he was born, at 22 years. He was also a councilman, congressman and senator, and a diplomat in Paris. In 1979, he joined the New Liberalism movement, which was born out of the Liberal Party and denounced this party’s connections with drug trafficking and paramilitary groups.

From 1983, Lara was a cabinet member of President Belisario Betancur as Minister of Justice to support the peace process with the guerilla and to start to fight against drug trafficking and political corruption.

War and Extradition

The premature death of one of the country’s most famous and loved political figures because of his bravery and integrity marked the start of the war between the Colombian state and drug trafficking, as well as the beginning of the extradition of Colombian criminals to the United States. This was the first of a series of assassinations that drug traffickers and paramilitaries ordered in the eighties and nineties.

Seeking Reconciliation

After the pain that this crime brought, Jorge, son of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, understood that he as well as the children of Escobar and Carlos Lehder had been afflicted by a war that did not belong to them. Now he is a friend of Juan Pablo Escobar and through him, he met Mónica Lehder, who also became his friend and together they give talks on their suffering, reconciliation and friendship.

Learn about the story of reconciliation between the sons of Pablo Escobar and Rodrigo Lara Bonilla

Share

Related stories