A bomb blast in central Bogota injured Colombia’s former Justice Minister Fernando Londono today and killed five people, including his driver and one of his bodyguards.
The bomb exploded near Londono’s armored car, blocks from the nation’s financial district, injuring 17 people, President Juan Manuel Santos said. Londono has injuries to his head and thorax and his life isn’t in danger, Santos said.
Londono served as interior and justice minister to former President Alvaro Uribe, who used the army with Santos as defense minister and the justice system led by Londono to turn the tide in a five-decade war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Latin America’s oldest guerrilla movement. With U.S. aid, the nation in the past decade has reduced the number of insurgents and cut the cocaine cultivation that helps fund the rebels.
The blast came on the same day as a free trade agreement with the U.S. came into effect, triggering protests across the country. The accord, which was inaugurated at midnight with a shipment of flowers to the U.S., will immediately end duties on more than 80 percent of U.S. exports to Colombia.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro said the attack is an attempt to “destabilize” the city and was probably carried out to coincide with the free trade agreement.
“I believe the FTA represents the dawn of a new era,” Gabriel Silva, Colombian ambassador to the U.S., said in a speech to business leaders during a luncheon at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
The free-trade agreement stalled in the U.S. Congress amid opposition from House Democrats and unions who said Colombia did too little to protect labor leaders from violence. President Barack Obama worked to broaden support by securing stronger commitments from Colombia.
Obama certified Colombia’s labor protection efforts during a trip to Cartagena for a hemispheric summit last month, allowing both sides to put the trade pact into effect today.
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