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Saturday, August 14, 1999 Published at 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK

World: Americas

'No more violence,' say mourners

Mourners filed past Garzon's body lying in state at Congress

Tens of thousands of mourners have gathered in the Colombian capital Bogota for the funeral of the country's best-loved comic, Jaime Garzon, who was assassinated on Friday.

BBC's Jermey McDermott in Bogota: Murders are nothing new here, but Garzon's death is different
The tearful crowd, waving white banners with the slogan "No More", have turned the occasion into a plea for an end to Colombia's long-running civil war.

Garzon, who had been working to forward peace efforts with leftist rebels, was shot dead as he drove to the Bogota radio station where he presented a morning show.

His funeral Mass at the National Cathedral and burial are taking on many of the trappings of a state funeral, as numbers in Bogota's vast Bolivar Square nearbly swelled to about 60,000.

[ image: Students, their hands painted green for peace, protest against the killing]
Students, their hands painted green for peace, protest against the killing
A BBC correspondent in Bogota, Jeremy McDermott, likened the outpouring of grief to that for Princess Diana in Britain and John F Kennedy Jnr in the United States.

The traffic lights, where the motorcycle assassins killed the comedian by pumping five shots into his head and chest through the window of his jeep, is covered in flowers and tributes.

In an honour usually reserved for top politicians, Garzon's body was allowed to lie in state in Congress before the funeral.

Attorney-General Jaime Cuellar addressed the crowd in Bolivar Square and called on "the men of violence" from left and right to stop this "absurd war".

"The only people paying a price of the war are the symbols of the country, like Jaime Garzon", Mr Cuellar said.


The government is offering a reward of 500m pesos ($270,000) for information leading to the killers' arrest.

President Andres Pastrana, a long time friend of Garzon's, said: "This is contemptible from all points of view and once again I want to reiterate that Colombians are tired of this type of violence and we must look for reconciliation."

[ image: Garzon's biting satire made him one of Colombia's most popular figures]
Garzon's biting satire made him one of Colombia's most popular figures
The president had recently appointed Garzon to a peace team looking at ways to start talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's second largest rebel group.

Right-wing paramilitaries were initially blamed for the assassination, but have issued a denial.

The largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is also under suspicion, following reports that its relationship with Garzon had soured.

The government said 600 motorcycles fitting the description of the one used in the killing had been impounded for investigation.

Death threats

The comedian was best known for his stinging send-ups of Colombian personalities.

But he also liased with leftist rebels to try to secure the release of kidnap victims and had organised guerrilla news conferences in a southern rebel-controlled area.

[ image: Most Bogotanos went to work on Friday morning in a state of shock]
Most Bogotanos went to work on Friday morning in a state of shock
On Friday, he had been due to leave on a trip to help negotiate the release of hostages held by the ELN.

Colleagues said Garzon had told them, as recently as Thursday, about receiving death threats from right-wing paramilitary militias.

Garzon's sister, Marisol, said he had become more careful about his movements lately, although he refused bodyguards.

This has been Colombia's highest-profile assassination since the 1995 killing of Conservative Party leader Alvaro Gomez, allegedly by former members of the military secret service.

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