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CANDIDATES WIN AIR TIME TO AVOID RISKY CAMPAIGNING

SHARE CANDIDATES WIN AIR TIME TO AVOID RISKY CAMPAIGNING

President Virgilio Barco ordered that presidential candidates be given money to buy radio and television time so they can cut down on risky public appearances. But at least one candidate set off Friday on a new round of campaigning.

Three candidates for the May 27 elections have been assassinated.Barco also said that voters would decide whether or not the country's constitution should be reformed. There is widespread support for the proposed reforms, intended to strengthen the country's judicial system and reduce drug traffickers' influence in congress.

"The urgent strengthening of institutions is necessary for a return to normality and to overcome a situation in which public security is constantly disturbed," said the presidential decree, issued late Thursday. The proposal would need the support of 51 percent of the voters.

Meanwhile, six men were killed Friday during a shootout in a shopping center in Medellin, home of one of the major drug cartels. One police officer was wounded in the gun battle between special antiterrorist police and a group suspected of storing weapons, police said.

Barco's decree earmarked $340,000 to allow all 13 presidential contenders to buy air time. The order also increased free time on government-owned television for candidates' speeches.

But Cesar Gaviria, candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, traveled Friday to the eastern city of Bucaramanga, and his campaign said he would make a series of appearances in public plazas.

Gaviria had suspended his campaign activities after the April 26 assassination of Carlos Pizarro, a leftist presidential contender. An assassin shot and killed Pizarro, the candidate for the April 19 Movement, or M19, aboard a Colombian jetliner.

In previous months, candidates Sen. Luis Carlos Galan of the Liberal Party and Bernardo Jaramillo of the Patriotic Union were assassinated.