Colombia: Public act of apology and tribute in the emblematic case of Guillermo Cano

Cano, director of El Espectador newspaper, was assassinated on December 17, 1986.

Miami (January 8, 2024) – Directors of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization (RFK Human Rights), and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP, in Spanish) will attend tomorrow the public reparations ceremony for the assassination of Guillermo Cano, director of El Espectador newspaper, perpetrated 37 years ago by the Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar.

The Colombian state will acknowledge the failures, shortcomings, and omissions in the investigation and pursuit of justice, as well as in the judicial protection of the victims and their families regarding Cano's murder. The ceremony will take place on February 9 in Bogota.

The state, represented by the Minister of Justice, Néstor Iván Osuna, will also commit to compensating the victims' families and continue seeking justice. The ceremony coincides with the celebration of Journalist Day in Colombia.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be represented by the rapporteur for Colombia, Commissioner José Luis Caballero. Special guests from the Cano family will also attend the ceremony at the Memory, Peace, and Reconciliation Center. IAPA will be represented by its president, Roberto Rock, editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, and by the executive director of the organization, Carlos Lauría.

Cano was assassinated on December 17, 1986. He was 61 years old. That assassination was the prelude to a wave of violence unleashed by Pablo Escobar and other drug traffickers, who sought to silence the critical press.

IAPA conducted a journalistic investigation, which was presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on February 20, 1997. The IACHR assigned it case number 11,728. The case, emblematic for the IAPA, was among the first six journalist murders presented before the Commission. In 2018, RFK Human Rights and FLIP joined the IAPA as organizations representing the case before the IACHR.

In the early years, through the mediation of the IACHR, representatives corresponded with the State, but later, proceedings stalled. However, in 2018, it was revealed that in 2001 the IACHR had approved a report (merit report) with recommendations to the State.

The IACHR did not notify the victim's representatives and their families to present their observations. Then, due to irregularities in the process and its implications for access to the Inter-American justice system, the possibility of submitting the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights came to an end.

Now, during tomorrow's ceremony, the parties will also sign an agreement to comply with the IACHR's recommendations, which include clauses for material and moral reparations for the family, non-repetition measures, and the pursuit of justice.

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.