A car bomb ripped through a posh neighborhood in northern Bogota today, killing six people and injuring 40 others. The blast stirred fears that drug traffickers are beginning a new terror campaign to subvert the government's efforts to extradite them to the United States.
Police said 175 pounds of explosives were placed in a red Mazda pickup and set off by remote control. The blast leveled a house and a liquor store where the car was parked. It blew out the windows of apartment buildings up to three blocks away.
"I thought I was in an earthquake," said Blanca Nellie, an employee at an apartment building around the corner from the bomb site, as she swept up glass from the sidewalk.
The bomb came just two days after a 14-pound bomb exploded under an electricity pole, injuring nine people, including three investigators for the attorney general's office. But police refused to speculate on who was responsible for the bombs or if they are related to the possible extradition of up to 40 suspected drug traffickers.
The Colombian Supreme Court gave the go-ahead this week to extradite an alleged Colombian trafficker, Jaime Orlando Lara, alias the King of Heroin, and an alleged Venezuelan trafficker, Fernando Jose Flores. Responding defiantly to the bombing today, President Andres Pastrana announced hours after the blast that he had signed extradition orders for Orlando Lara, Flores and a third alleged trafficker, a Cuban identified as Sergio Braulio Gonzalez, on whose case the court ruled Oct. 26.
"At this point, it is too early to say these bombs are related to extradition," said Alberto Ruiz, a commander of the National Police, while rescuers took away the last of the bodies. "[But] the way this was done does have some similarities to that time."
He was referring to the specter of extradition to the United States that led the Medellin drug cartel to conduct a terror campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That campaign claimed the lives of hundreds of policemen, several judges and a leading presidential candidate. The terror campaign was one of the key elements that pushed lawmakers to write into the 1991 constitution a clause forbidding extradition.
The courts overturned that law in 1997 but no one has been extradited since 1990.