THE DEATH OF A 'CRAFTY LITTLE BLONDE'
It's the stuff of an international political thriller, perhaps something Tom Clancy would write.
A woman suspected of having information that could bring down a South American country's president is driven into hiding by dangers at every corner. Those interested in finding her - either to take her testimony or to silence her - include the country's top investigatory agency, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and, according to the woman's husband, in prison on drug-trafficking charges, the ''government.''
It is those who want the woman silenced who find her first, in the rundown apartment of two Cuban witchcraft artists to whom the woman went to find some deliverance. There, amid the candles, flowers, and jars of snails, assailants gun down the woman Colombian President Ernesto Samper Pizano in taped conversations called the ''crafty little blonde.''
This is not fiction, however. This is Colombia.
Last Thursday, Elizabeth Montoya de Sarria, a suspected drug trafficker herself, was murdered in a north Bogota apartment in the circumstances described above. She had burst onto the Colombian scene last July.
The treasurer of Mr. Samper's 1994 campaign, Santiago Medina, alleged during investigation of drug money's infiltration in the campaign that Montoya had made donations topping $150,000 cash.
Then in August, the Bogota newsmagazine Semana published a transcript of telephone conversations Montoya had with Mr. Samper during his 1994 race. In one of them the two spoke in a very familiar tone, but also in what appeared to be almost code-like terms about a meeting Montoya wanted to set up with some ''super-good'' people. Since then speculation has run high that the ''people'' were drug kingpins.
Montoya's husband, Jesus, speculated in a television interview from prison that it might have been the ''government'' that wanted his wife silenced, ''because of what she knew.'' The drug trafficker, who is said to have been invited to Samper's inauguration, said he would tell the US government what he knows in exchange for protection for his children.
On Friday a shadowy organization sent a fax to a Bogota newspaper claiming responsibility for the murder of the ''crafty little blonde.''
The group called itself Dignity for Colombia.