BOGOTA, Colombia -- Gunmen who blocked a rural highway southwest of Bogota shot and killed Jaime Pardo Leal, a former presidential candidate and leader of Colombia's leftist Patriotic Union party, police said.
Pardo Leal, 46, a former judge of the Bogota Superior Tribunal, was returning to Bogota from a family outing Sunday, police said, when he got out of his car near the town of La Mesa, 45 miles southwest of Bogota, to investigate what appeared to be a traffic accident.
At least three men emerged from a blue station wagon and shot Pardo Leal three times in the head, according to police.
The former presidential candidate, accompanied by his wife, Gloria, and one of their three children, also traveling with two plainclothes officers. Pardo Leal, who recently said 'paramilitary groups' wanted to kill leaders of his party, had received various death threats in the past year.
Police said one of the plainclothes officers tried to drive the wounded politician to a nearby hospital but lost control of the car and rolled into a ditch. A bus stopped to pick up Pardo Leal and took him to a clinic in La Mesa, where he died.
Pardo Leal was a founder of the Communist Party and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, the nation's oldest and largest guerrilla force. He helped to form the Union Patriotica in 1984.
As the UP presidential candidate in 1986 elections, Pardo Leal received 6 percent of the vote, the largest percentage ever received by a leftist party in Colombia's history.
Colombian officials lamented Pardo Leal's death and the continuing political violence in the South American nation.
'The situation of law and order in this country is in bad shape. This killing shows the degree of violence we are living under,' Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos said.
Former Foreign Minister Alfredo Vasquez, president of the Colombian Committee for Human Rights, said, 'Despite the fact he was a politician of leftist ideas, we agreed on the task of seeking solutions for problems such as (political) violence.'