One of my Heroes: Colombian Journalist and Author Antonio Caballero Calderon

September 14, 2021

I read in the Colombian press with great sorrow that Antonio Caballero passed away on September 10 in Bogota. Although I did not realize it, he reportedly had been quite ill for some time.

            For many years my Colombian wife, Cecilia Zarate, and I waited anxiously for the newsmagazine “Semana” to appear each week in bookstores and online. We immediately turned to Antonio’s column to read his observations on contemporary political developments, always masterfully well-written and always unflinchingly honest. He added a comical drawing to most of his columns, an example of which I have attached below. Although he was born into a privileged family with years of leadership in politics and journalism, he was always his own person and unafraid to tell what he believed. When he felt something was wrong, he said so, no matter whether those in political power, or in journalism, whom he criticized held high office or important positions.

            An example was the controversy over Bogota’s historic Santamaria Bullfighting Ring. When Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro ordered that bullfights should no longer be held in Bogota and the Santamaria stadium should be converted into market stalls, Antonio, who often wrote of his enjoyment of bull-fighting, fiercely opposed Mayor Petro. Yet years later in 2018 when Petro ran for President against Ivan Duque, a protégé of former President Alvaro Uribe Velez, Antonio wrote in his column in Semana that he was going to vote for Petro. He decided to vote for Petro because he believed that Petro would be a better President than Duque. The disastrous failed Presidency of Duque shows that Antonio, always an astute observer of politics in Colombia and elsewhere, was correct in his assessment. In a column in “Los Danieles” on August 8, 2021, titled “Duque Y La Historia” Antonio pointed out the striking failings of Duque’s Presidency.

            After having appreciated Antonio’s many contributions to honest, forthright journalism for many years, I was privileged to meet him at a wonderful gathering in Bogota organized by the extraordinary diplomat and writer Clara Nieto de Ponce de Leon. Clara, whom my wife loved to meet with and talk to on the telephone, kindly invited me to this marvelous gathering at which Antonio was one of her special guests. As Antonio left Clara’s residence at the end of a wonderful evening of discussion, he came over to me and said he hoped he could speak to me, though I was about to leave Colombia. I‘ve been looking forward to that meeting for these several years since our meeting at Clara’s residence and am very sorry it won’t happen.

            I will, however, always remember the straightforward, well-expressed views of Antonio Caballero, whose commitment to truth and honesty was always evident in his writing

Jack Laun

Co-Founder and Program Director

Colombia Support Network

Madison, Wisconsin

An example of his cartoons can be viewed here:

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