Prominent charismatic Bolivian evangelist Julio Cesar Ruibal was murdered by gunmen in Cali, Colombia, December 13 as he left a meeting of Protestant pastors. His death has caused profound shock throughout the Latin American evangelical community.
Ruibal, 42, was shot at 3:15 p.m. as he left a meeting of evangelical pastors in Cali. Officials said Ruibal was killed by sicarios, or professional assassins, with suspected links to drug traffickers. According to family friend Alberto Salcedo, pastor of the 6,000-member Ekklesia evangelical church in La Paz, Bolivia, Ruibal received death threats days before his murder.
"He was intercepted by a motorcyclist who warned him that he was going to die within a month," Salcedo said. "It looks like they kept their word."
Zacarias Salas, former head of the Evangelical Confederation of Colombia, said that Ruibal "had been receiving threats from persons who disliked his [evangelistic] work."
According to Salas, Ruibal "was ambushed by two gunmen as he left the meeting and shot three times, twice in the head."
The murderers took advantage of the absence of two bodyguards who had recently been assigned to Ruibal. The bodyguards were themselves ex-assassins who had become members of Ruibal's church following their conversions to Christianity, Salas said.
Church leaders and police suspect that members of the Cali drug cartel ordered the murder. Narcotics traffickers had tried to purchase real estate in the city that belonged to Ruibal's evangelistic association, sources said.
Since moving to Colombia from Bolivia in 1977, Ruibal had founded the Christian Center in Cali and opened a health clinic there. His organization planned to build a radio and television broadcasting complex on the property.