This is a story about Liliana Gaviria (pronounced Gah veer riah) and the brave decision she made on the last day of her earthly life. Liliana, the sister of a former Colombian president and elected Secretary-General of the OAS in Washington for many years, Cesar Gaviria, as well as another brother, Juan Carlos, was 52 years old when she was killed allegedly by the country’s largest insurgent group on April 27, 2006. It was a month before the presidential elections were scheduled and many citizens thought Liliana’s murder was to destabilize further the Colombian government (elected by a wide majority) or to hold her hostage to be released later in exchange for insurgents being held in Colombian prisons. Liliana lived in a small city in Western Colombia, Pereira (her hometown), where she was a businesswoman. Her principal activities included real estate sales and the ownership of a transport company. Liliana was heading home in her SUV after a day’s work when her vehicle was blocked on the highway and she was forced to get out. Her lone bodyguard, Fernando Velez, was killed and Liliana then taken away, seemingly, in the thugs’ vehicle.
One of Liliana’s eight attackers/gunmen was wounded. Police found Liliana’s abandoned body later. She’d been fatally shot in the abdomen. She had a head bruise and detached skin was found by the coroner under her nails. The skin evidenced the strong fight Liliana put up to protest this violation of her freedom.
The would-be kidnapping had been planned quite some time in advance. The construction of a type of metal “cage” had been ordered for the purpose of “housing” Liliana after her live capture.
Two military generals who were responsible for security in the region of Western Colombia in which Liliana lived resigned after the President allegedly said security for Liliana had been weak. A large reward was offered by the government for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers, who drove a red Mazda during the assault. Two of the ten people suspected to be involved in the tragic incident were sentenced in July, 2006, to 36 years in prison for this cold-blooded murder.
Liliana’s killing was not the first political incident the family had been forced to suffer. In 1997, during her brother Cesar’s service in Washington, Liliana’s other brother, Juan Carlos, was kidnapped, also by insurgents, and held for more or less 70 days. He was set free in exchange for the release of eight insurgent prisoners.
Liliana could have been quiet and cooperative with her captors. Who knows how long she would have lived after the assault had she gone along with her abductors’ plans. But Liliana was brave and had her own plans—plans that did not include being just anybody’s patsy. Plans that did not include rotting away in one of the country’s many vermin-infested jungles. Liliana made a decision.