Reporters Without Borders today hailed the arrests on 1 April of three of the four men suspected of carrying out the murder of radio presenter Gustavo “El Gaba” Rojas Gabalo of Radio Panzemu, who was shot on 4 February in the northwestern town of Montería and died of his injuries on 20 March.
According to information obtained following the arrests, the murder was planned a month ahead of time and it now seems even more likely that it was linked to Rojas’s work as a journalist. But those who instigated the killing have still not been identified.
The chief suspect to be detained is Ramiro “El Guajiro” Antonio Berrio. According to the police, residents identified him as the person who fired the shots that fatally wounded Rojas. He has a police record and was wanted in connection with other murders.
He was arrested in the Santa Fe de Rialito area, a stronghold of former paramilitaries, together with Santiago “El Negro” Luna Primera and Manuel “El Pambe” Pérez Jiménez, who both used to belong to United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC), the main alliance of extreme right-wing paramilitaries. They were seen with Berrio near Rojas’s home on the night of the murder. An arrest warrant has been issued for a fourth suspect.
The three detainees have been placed in Las Mercedes prison in Montería but their families have requested their transfer to a prison in the capital.
21.03.06 - Radio journalist dies of gunshot wounds after 44 days in intensive care
Reporters Without Borders voiced sadness and outrage today at the death of radio presenter Gustavo “El Gaba” Rojas Gabalo yesterday in a hospital in the northwestern city of Medellín from the injuries he received to the head and collarbone when he was shot on 4 February by two gunmen who are still on the run.
Rojas was almost certainly killed because of his work as a journalist. For the past 30 years he had been presenting a programme called “El show de Gaba” on Radio Panzemu in which talked scathingly and sarcastically about local government corruption.
His death adds to Colombia’s already grim toll of press freedom violations. He is the western hemisphere’s fourth journalist to be killed in connection with their work since the start of the year.
07.02.06 - Radio journalist shot in the head and collarbone
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today at a murder attempt on radio presenter Gustavo “Gaba” Rojas Gabalo of Radio Panzemu in the northern city of Montería, who was shot in the head and collarbone by a man on a motorcycle on 4 February.
“We call on the authorities to do everything possible to identify and punish the perpetrators,” the press freedom organisation said. “We also insist on the need for effective measures to protect the media. Rojas hosted a satirical programme in which he took risks and his case is yet another example of what can happen to journalists in Colombia.”
Rojas was having a drink with a friend in the southern part of the city at around 8:45 p.m. when he heard his car alarm go off twice. The third time he went out to see what was happening and found his car being kicked by a man wearing a motorcycle helmet. The man took off the helmet and shot Gabo twice before leaving with an accomplice on a motorcycle.
Rojas was rushed to a hospital and, after spending several hours in a coma, was transferred to another hospital to undergo an operation. Since then he has remained in intensive care while the surgeon has refused to make any statement.
The police, who are investigating, said Rojas had received no recent threats. One of the three theories is that the assailant is a man who was involved in a collision with Rojas a few hours earlier and who took off after making several aggressive remarks. The police said they were looking for him.
A second theory is that the shooting is linked to Rojas’ work as a journalist. He presents a programme called “El show de Gaba” in which he often talks sarcastically about local government corruption. Defamation lawsuits have been brought against him in the past but none has been successful. The third theory is a crime of passion.
Police chief Jaime Velasco said he did not yet have any specific leads and that police who patrol near the hospital were protecting Rojas. All of the regional authorities involved in security issues met yesterday to discuss the case and are due to meet again tomorrow.