Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Oct. 8 demanded that his interior and defense ministers investigate how an imprisoned guerilla leader escaped in the northeastern city of Arauca. Gustavo Anibal Giraldo Quinchia AKA “Pablito” was freed the previous morning when a group of gunmen attacked a convoy transporting him to the local airport for a court hearing. One guard was killed and two injured in the incident. Giraldo is a high-ranking leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who opposed peace talks with the Colombian government. He was arrested in January 2008. “There is no explanation for this escape,” Uribe told reporters. “There are signs of corruption around this that are very troubling.”
Colombian authorities are offering a $900,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Giraldo. Luis Alberto Ortiz, National Police commander in Arauca, told Caracol Radio that the ELN leader has taken refuge in neighboring Venezuela, saying the vehicle and the motorcycles used by the guerillas who helped him escape were found in a hamlet across the river from Venezuelan territory. Colombian authorities have requested the Venezuelan assistance to apprehend Giraldo.
Giraldo faces charges of murder, rebellion, and terrorism. He is accused in connection with the 1989 assassination of the Catholic archbishop of Arauca, Jesus Emilio Jaramillo, and with some 200 attacks against the Caño Limon oil pipeline. (CNN, LAHT, Oct. 9; Colombia Report, Oct. 7)