Prestigious but failing Colombian paper ceases daily editions
BOGOTA, Colombia -- (AP) -- One of the Colombia's most prestigious
daily newspapers survived drug traffickers' bullets and
bombs, but has now fallen victim to the country's sluggish economy, its director announced Wednesday.
El Espectador is closing as a daily on Saturday and will now appear
only on Sundays, director Carlos Lleras de la Fuente
announced Wednesday. He cited economic troubles for the death of the daily.
``El Espectador is a part of Colombia's patrimony. I feel obliged
to keep it alive under whatever circumstances possible,'' Lleras
The newspaper was one of the most outspoken voices in Colombian media.
In 1986, Pablo Escobar's Medellín cocaine cartel assassinated
Publisher Guillermo Cano outside the newspaper's offices for his
crusading stance against the cartel's rising influence. In 1989, the cartel detonated a truck bomb outside the newspaper, heavily
damaging the building and injuring dozens of employees.
A month later, El Espectador referred to Colombia's congress as
a pack of cowards because some members favored negotiating
with drug traffickers and barring their extradition to the United States.
At a news conference, Lleras also recalled that El Espectador
was burned down in 1952 and was closed by the government twice
since its founding by the Cano family in 1887 as a monthly paper in Medellín.
Today, several of El Espectador's most widely read columnists
are living in exile because of death threats from leftist guerrillas or
right-wing paramilitary groups.
Despite its proud tradition, El Espectador struggled in recent
years to compete for readers and advertising with its larger rival, El
Tiempo. As El Espectador's circulation shrunk, so did its advertising revenue.
In 1997, the Cano family sold a majority interest to Bavaria Group,
one of Colombia's largest business conglomerates with
investments in beverage companies and the nation's leading airline, Avianca.
But Lleras said the paper was bleeding financially and would have
needed an additional $50 million over the next five years to
survive as a daily. The choice was to either go with a Sunday-only run or close down altogether, he said.