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Colombia: Return of Sure Shot

2 minute read

The last of Colombia’s big-time bandits is Pedro Antonio Marin, 34, alias “Tiro Fijo” (Sure Shot), a killer responsible for some 200 murders. In a drive to stamp out the senseless violence that has torn the country’s backlands for almost two decades, an army regiment last May went after the bandit and his gang, but Tiro Fijo escaped. Now he is back in business, more vicious than ever and proclaiming himself a Castro-style guerrilla.

One morning recently, Tiro Fijo and 160 men, wearing olive green fatigues in the Cuban fashion, stopped a bus on a country road 200 miles southwest of Bogotá; they sprayed the 24 occupants with submachine-gun fire, leaving 13 dead, including two nuns. The band then marched to the nearby town of Inza (pop. 1,000), where Tiro Fijo’s men executed the mayor, town treasurer, bank manager and a policeman before looting three stores and a bank. To the terrified townspeople, Tiro Fijo said that he wants to be known only by his real name and not by his nickname, because he is no longer a bandit but a Communist guerrilla fighting for Colombian liberation. At his side was an aide whom others in the band referred to as el cubano.

President Guillermo León Valencia denounced the Inza raid as “violence financed from international fields,” sent 1,000 anti-guerrilla troopers chasing after the killers. Even as the man hunt was underway, new terror struck nearby. Kidnapers seized Harold Eder, 61, one of Colombia’s richest and most influential industrialists, from his ranch near Cali, beheaded Eder’s police bodyguard, demanded 2,000,000 pesos (about $145,000) ransom, the highest sum in the sordid history of Colombian kidnaping.

Many observers blamed the job on Tiro Fijo, though the army somewhat lamely insisted it was the work of a local smalltime bandit. President Valencia sent 3,000 more troops into the area, but at week’s end Eder was still captive and Tiro Fijo still free. Nervous Colombians feared that their torn country was headed for a new era of Communist-inspired violence and that the government was unable to do much about it.

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