Pope Lauds Slain Colombian Archbishop
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Slain Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino, who
often criticized leftist rebels, ``paid the highest price'' for defending human life
and opposing violence in this war-torn country, Pope John Paul II said
The gray-haired, 63-year-old bespectacled archbishop had just completed
Saturday night group wedding and was heading to his car when he was shot
by two gunmen outside the Buen Pastor church in a working-class
neighborhood of Cali, witnesses said.
``I urge Colombians once again to follow the way of dialogue, excluding
types of violence, blackmail and kidnapping of people and to firmly commit
themselves to what are the true roads of peace,'' the pope said during a
speech at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.
The pontiff, who also said Duarte was ``brave in preaching the gospel,''
named him archbishop in Cali, 185 miles southwest of Bogota, the capital, in
Duarte was dead on arrival at Carlos Holmes Trujillo Hospital, hospital
director Ricardo Vanegas said. TV footage showed people weeping outside
the hospital in Cali, Colombia's third-largest city.
Edilberto Ceballos, Duarte's driver, told Caracol radio network that the
archbishop was shot several times, including in the head.
``Two guys came and opened fire and hit him three or four times, maybe
even six times,'' the driver said. ``I saw him dead.''
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hours after the attack Saturday night, electrical power went out in
Colombia's three biggest cities -- Bogota, Medellin and Cali -- leaving
millions of people in the dark. News reports said up to 70 percent of
Colombia had suffered a blackout.
Rebels have been attacking the nation's infrastructure, including blowing
electrical transmission towers, but Javier Gutierrez, the manager of the
national electrical company ISSA, the massive outage was due to a technical
problem and not a guerrilla attack.
Duarte frequently criticized leftist rebels for their attacks and kidnappings.
Colombia's 38-year-old civil war has intensified since peace talks with the
main rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC,
collapsed on Feb. 20.
A smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN,
also earned Duarte's ire for conducting mass kidnappings in Cali in recent
years, including abducting worshippers at a Cali church. Although talks with
the FARC collapsed, the ELN is participating in peace talks with Colombian
government representatives in Havana.
Duarte recently said publicly that money from drug traffickers was being
used in the campaigns of some candidates in the March 10 congressional
election. He did not name any specific candidates even though President
Andres Pastrana urged him to.
Drug traffickers have bloodied Colombia in the past. In the 1980s and
1990s, the now-defunct Medellin cartel -- then the world's biggest
cocaine-trafficking syndicate -- assassinated hundreds of people in a war of
terrorism in Colombia.
The archbishop of Bogota, Pedro Rubiano, said he was devastated by
``It is inconceivable that a good man, a man who dedicated his life to
God and serving his brothers, has become a victim of the terrible violence
which is ripping apart this country,'' Rubiano said.
Alvaro Uribe, who is leading the polls ahead of the May 26 presidential
election, said during a Cali campaign swing, ``The truth is that he is
Colombia's war pits the FARC and the ELN against the government's armed
forces and an illegal right-wing paramilitary group. About 3,500 people --
most of them civilians -- are killed in the war annually.
Paramilitary leader Carlos Castano said in a recent biography that he
considered the archbishop ``a friend.'' Duarte reportedly was nervous about
that description, since being identified too closely with one of the warring
sides can make one a target. Duarte also criticized the paramilitaries for their
Duarte is not the first outspoken Roman Catholic bishop to die amid the
throes of civil war in Latin America.
El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was assassinated by a
sniper in March 1980, a day after delivering a sermon asking the military to
halt its repressive tactics in El Salvador's civil war. A truth commission found
evidence his killing was ordered by ultra-right elements.
Three army soldiers and a priest were convicted in the 1998 slaying of
Guatemalan bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, two days after he presented a report
blaming the military for most of the 200,000 deaths in Guatemala's
1960-1996 civil war. Gerardi was bludgeoned to death at his seminary in