BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's interior minister became the third Cabinet member to resign since the cocaine cartels declared war on the government in August, officials said.
Interior Minister Orlando Vasquez confirmed his resignation Wednesday night and said he would return to the Senate to fight for constitutional reform.
Justice Minister Monica de Greiff resigned Sept. 21 after death threats were made on her and her family, and Economic Development Minister Carlos Marulanda quit last week.
Three bombs apparently linked to the cartels' war on the nation exploded overnight in the capital, police said Thursday.
A small bomb went off early Thursday in the western part of Bogota in a sewage drain in front of an apartment complex, blowing out the windows in the building, police said. Wednesday night two bombs exploded, one in a taxi station near the center of the city, wounding one person, and another in a high school in the southern part of the capital. Classes were suspended for repairs.
In Medellin, two police lieutenants were shot and wounded by a gunman on a motorcycle as they drove home Wednesday night, police said. The two were reported to be out of danger and recovering in a Medellin hospital.
Medellin, the home of the powerful cocaine cartel of the same name, was under a curfew for some 20 days last month after a series of assassinations and bombings terrorized the city.
More than 130 bombs have gone off in Colombia since a cartel-linked hit squad declared 'total war' on the nation Aug. 24.
Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled constitutional the package of state-of-siege decrees issued by President Virgilio Barco on Aug. 18 in response to a string of assassinations in July and August attributed to the cartels.
The measures include extradition of wanted drug traffickers to the United States and confiscation of property bought with drug money. So far, millions of dollars of luxury homes and estates have been siezed, and one trafficker, Eduardo Martinez Romero, has been turned over to U.S. authorities.
RCN Radio reported Thursday that presidential candidate Alberto Santofimio accused the United States of 'intervening in the internal affairs of Colombia,' alleging that his U.S. visa was revoked because he opposes Barco's extradition policy.
Santofimio said during a Senate debate Wednesday night that a U.S. consulate official told him his visa had been revoked.
The debate centered on a scandal over a so-called 'black list,' supposedly drawn up by the U.S. Embassy, containing the names of some 25 Colombian politicians whose visas were revoked or denied because of alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
The U.S. Embassy has refused to comment on individual cases, but an American official said some Colombians had been denied visas because of drug suspicions, including some 'prominent Colombians.'
Vasquez, the third Cabinet member to resign in as many weeks, was appointed July 16 by Barco to replace Raul Orejuela, who resigned amid accusations of being involved in a cocaine cartel spy ring.
De Greiff resigned after only two months in office, and Marulanda resigned due to a scandal involving his sale of a farm to the government for an allegedly inflated price.
Education Minister Manuel Becerra was rumored in the press to be about to resign as well, but the presidential palace had not confirmed the report.
On Tuesday, the Catholic bishop of Arauca in Colombia's northeast was assassinated, apparently by leftist rebels.
Police said Bishop Jesus Jaramillo Monsalve, 72, was assassinated along with a priest. The Defense Ministry attributed the killing to the National Liberation Army, or ELN, which has operated in the area for some 20 years.
Pope John Paul II sent a telegram of condolence to church officials in South America Wednesday expressing his 'profound sorrow' over the assassination, which he said was the product of 'unjustifiable violence.'