Monday, August 15, 2011

Today’s Video: Jaime Garzon – humor and impunity

Imagine the public reaction in the U.S. if Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert were to be gunned down in cold blood. Now picture that in the subsequent years impunity surrounds the murder and investigations into the crime have yielded few results. Such is the case of Jaime Garzon, Colombia’s top political humorist who was assassinated just over twelve years ago.

Garzon was best known for his sharp satire against the Colombian political establishment in TV programs such as “Zoociedad” and "Quac, El Noticiero". (In this clip, for instance, Garzon pokes fun at then-Governor and eventual president Alvaro Uribe as “the dictator Colombia needs!”) His most famous character was Heriberto de la Calle (roughly translated as “Heriberto of the streets”), a shoeshine man who grilled celebrities and political leaders. (In this clip, Heriberto asks ex-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Myles Frechette if it’s true that the U.S. “doesn’t pursue guerillas since the rebels send cocaine to the U.S. and they receive arms in return?”)

Aside from his humor, Garzon was also a lawyer and peace activist who involved himself in the liberating of hostages from the FARC as well as the failed peace negotiations with the rebels. Paramilitary leaders allegedly viewed him not as an intermediary but instead as a guerilla collaborator and he reportedly received death threats from them. It’s believed that paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño ordered Garzon to be killed, a tragedy that would occur in Bogota on August 13, 1999.

In 2000, Castaño was convicted in absentia of the murder of Garzon and sentenced to 38 years in prison. The purported mastermind behind the assassination never spent a day behind bars for his crime and he himself would be killed under mysterious circumstances in 2004.

After years of weak investigations in Colombia, Garzon’s family last week sought the intervention of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, one cannot help but wonder how Garzon would’ve skewered the Colombian political landscape of the past few years and if the country is still without a “national identity” as he jokingly refers to in this 1993 interview:

(Hat tip for the video: Colombia Reports).

Online Sources- El Heraldo, Colombia Reports
Video Source - YouTube

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