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Colombia Is Shaken By Drug Lord Escape

By Compiled from wire services / July 24, 1992



PRESIDENT Cesar Gaviria Trujillo insists Colombia will not change its policy of prosecuting alleged drug lords at home despite the spectacular prison escape of cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

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Mr. Escobar's surrender in June 1991 was the crowning success of President Gaviria's strategy to coax major traffickers into custody under a promise of leniency and no extradition to the United States. But the escape of Escobar and nine associates from a jail near Medellin on Wednesday raised doubts about whether Colombia's corruption-prone system is capable of holding drug traffickers and stopping their business - even from behind bars.

Gaviria said on Wednesday that Escobar - the world's top cocaine trafficker in the 1980s - had disappeared after a shootout with guards seeking to transfer him and 14 of his lieutenants to a military prison late Tuesday. He urged Escobar to surrender.

Hundreds of troops searched the hills around the custom-built jail in woods above Escobar's hometown of Envigado. Peruvians work despite rebel-called strike

Lima residents yesterday steeled themselves for the second day of a strike called by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas. They defied Sendero bomb attacks and warnings to stay home. Security remained tight in the capital.

Sendero's threats to kill anyone going to work kept many buses and taxis off the streets and closed many schools on Wednesday, the first day of the strike, but tens of thousands of workers struggled to their jobs on foot or in private cars and trucks.

Early Wednesday the rebels bombed a school for the children of military officers, injuring six children. They also set fire to at least four buses, shot a taxi driver, and dynamited two police stations, causing minor damage.

A government spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 85 percent of state employees went to work Wednesday, though many arrived late. Many schools were closed and entry to Lima's international airport was restricted to travelers.

The strike was intended to cap a week of violence that began last Thursday when Sendero set off two powerful car bombs, killing at least 24 people and wounding 140. Ibero-American leaders meet

The Second Ibero-American summit of leaders from 16 Latin American nations plus Spain and Portugal convened in Madrid yesterday for a two-day summit. Expected are initiatives to deepen the trend toward economic integration and free trade, a plan to combat the cholera epidemic with improved sanitary conditions, and more cooperation in education and culture.

As at last year's summit, the region's odd man out, Gen. Fidel Castro Ruz, continues to be a focus of attention. Cuban exiles held anti-Castro demonstrations while pro-Castro groups pushed to include in the agenda a condemnation of the US economic embargo of Cuba. Similarly, Mr. Castro's presence complicated the wording of the group's statement on commitment to democracy.

Domestic problems kept the presidents of Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela from attending this year's summit.