21 years after the assassination of the Colombian journalist Jaime Garzón, not all culprits have been convicted

Each year, on August 13, Colombia remembers Jaime Garzón Forero, a journalist and political humorist murdered in the early hours of 1999, while he was in his vehicle going to the radio station Radionet in Bogota. 

Ilustración Jaime Garzón de

Illustration commemorating the murder of Jaime Garzón. (Raúl Orozco - Raeioul). (Courtesy FLIP).

His murder shocked the nation. The images of his burial show the main plaza in Bogota, Plaza of Bolivar, filled with people who wanted to give a last goodbye. Amidst the cries and yelling, the people demanded justice.   

However, 21 years after the crime, not all the culprits have received a criminal sentence, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). What was demonstrated is that the crime was committed as an alliance between agents of the State and paramilitary groups who viewed Garzón as a supposed ally of the guerilla. It is something that has not been demonstrated, but that was related to Garzón’s work toward peace in the country.

[See details of the case in this article published on the 20th anniversary of the crime]

Up to now, two convictions have been given for the crime committed: the first against the former paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño and another against the former subdirector for the now-defunct intelligence department of the country (DAS), José Miguel Narváez.

Castaño never served the sentence that he was given on March 10, 2004, because he died. Narváez was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Aug. 13, 2018, but his sentence was reduced to 26 years on July 19, 2019. 

On Sept. 14, 2016, the Council of State - the highest tribunal in Colombia that defines the processes that involve the State - condemned the Nation for the crime. According to the Council of State, an alliance was formed between agents of the State and with groups outside the law, in this case, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), to commit this homicide.

Days later, on Sept. 28, 2016, the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation declared the homicide as a crime against humanity. This allowed the statute of limitations not to apply once 20 years after the crime passed, which is to say, that the time would have run out for its investigation as the Colombian legislature establishes. 

Because of the significance that Garzón means for Colombia, the date never goes unnoticed. Every year people gather at the place where the journalist's car was left to remember him. From the early hours of the day, on Colombian Twitter labels such as #Garzónteníarazón, #21AñosSinGarzón or #JaimeGarzón were trending.

The Peace and Reconciliation Memory Center has a special virtual event titled "Jaime Garzón, violence and impunity against the press in Colombia" via its Facebook page. Likewise, a group of artists and activists will carry out a virtual commemoration of Garzón.


This story was originally written in Spanish and was translated by Perla Arellano Fraire.