117 rights defenders assassinated in Colombia in 2016
February 7, 2017
As many as 117 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016, according to conflict-monitoring NGO Indepaz.
The number of homicides of rights leaders registered by the NGO is more than double than reported by the government, which has said 55 rights leaders were killed last year.
The report that was released on Tuesday claimed that the regions where the highest number of homicides occurred were the southwestern provinces of Valle del Cauca, Nariño and Cauca, where 57 social leaders were killed.
These three provinces were strongholds of Marxist guerrilla group FARC until the group signed peace with the government and agreed to abandon its territory late last year.
Killing of Colombia’s human rights defenders continues relentlessly
“The presence of paramilitary groups has increased, especially in the areas where the FARC was present,” according to Indepaz.
The Colombian government has consistently denied the existence of paramilitary groups, claiming only organized crime groups are active in Colombia.
The deaths of these social leaders and human rights defenders have been attributed to illegal armed groups to control areas and protect their own political, financial and criminal interests.
These killings have been committed … with the purpose of displacing communities, appropriating territories, defending mega-projects and political control in the regions.”
Indepaz investigator Leonardo Gonzalez
As the peace process and demobilization of the Marxist FARC rebels continues, concerns have raised about the presence of neo-paramilitary groups whom have reportedly being moving into to territory previously controlled by the FARC.
The report called on the government to recognize “the paramilitary phenomenon that could be behind” these atrocities with Leonardo Gonzalez claiming that the murders are as a result of these groups seeking to protect their interests and prevent the dramatic change that the peace process as a whole may bring.
Those who are against seeing their local or regional interests affected, take radical positions and do not want to accept that we are marching towards an end to armed confrontation and conflict. The systematic nature of these events can not be denied, which requires a response from the State as a whole.
Indepaz investigator Leonardo Gonzalez
Extortion in Colombia: Crime groups filling FARC void
The report claims that in 15 of Colombia’s 32 provinces leaflets in which social leaders are accused of being guerrillas and condemned to death or exile have appeared.
INDEPAZ say that in 27 of the 117 murders in 2016, the participation of paramilitary successor groups such as the AGC, “the Tierreros” and “Aguilas Negras” has been confirmed.
In 84 cases it was not possible to identify the perpetrators and in six there are indications that the security forces were involved.
Husband and wife brutally murdered as attacks on Colombia’s community leaders continue
The killings have sparked outcry from rights leaders who have demanded increased protection from neo-paramilitary groups.
The wave of violence has also caught the attention of the United Nations.
The international body last month published a report publicly condemning the violence.
written by Stephen Gill January 25, 2017
Find this story at 25 January 2017
@2016 – Colombia Reports
A human rights defender killed every other day in 2017 in Colombia
February 7, 2017
In the first 23 of January 2017, 11 human rights defenders have been killed. One of those killed was Afro-Colombian human rights defender (HRD) Emilsen Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega.
On 17 January 2017, the bodies of Afro-Colombian human rights defender (HRD) Emilsen Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega were found in Buenaventura. They had been missing since Saturday 14 January 2017. Just a few days before their disappearance, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house (see video below).
The local NGO who works with the communities in this region of the country, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, an ecumenical human rights organisation and partner of ABColombia member Christian Aid, reported that both bodies were severely wounded and that Rodallega’s hands had been tied. Contagio Radio said that both bodies had been beheaded.
Emilsen Manyoma was a prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region, as well as an active member of the community network CONPAZ. She had been a brave and outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local communities by business interests. She denounced paramilitary control and drug trafficking operations in the Calima and San Juan Rivers, and the Buenaventura District, as well as, the lack of action and tolerances by the police of drug trafficking. 
During 2016 s part of the recently created Truth Commission, Emilsen Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region.
 Statement by: Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Asesinada lideresa de CONPAZ, Emilsen Manyoma y su esposo, Buenaventura, Martes 17 de enero de 2017
ABColombia Published on 26 Jan 2017
Find this story at 26 January 2017
Panama Papers Link Offshore Company with Colombian Paramilitary
April 13, 2016
Hollman Carranza, the son of the late Victor Carranza, appears in the Panama Papers among 850 other Colombian citizens involved in the scandal.
The confidential files leaked Sunday known as Panama Papers showed a connection between offshore firms and the son of late Victor Carranza, a prominent figure of Colombian paramilitarism, the U.S. channel Univision and Colombian local media revealed Monday.
In the 1980s, Victor Carranza was known as the “emerald tsar” as he owned emerald mines in the Boyaca mountains, near the capital. He was investigated in 2012 for allegedly funding paramilitary groups in the 1990s, according to the testimony of a former leader of one of the main paramilitary group at the time, the United Self- Defense Forces of Colombia, named Fredy Rendon Herrera.
He died from cancer one year later; his company Tecminas remains the biggest emerald trader in the country.
Hollman Carranza’s name appeared in the Panama Papers among 850 more Colombian citizens, all involved in the scandal of tax evasion via the creation of offshore companies in Panama. Most of them live in Bogota, Medellin and Baranquilla. As the investigation unravels, the number of Colombian citizens involved in the scandal could still rise, informed El Espectador.
However, the Colombian law does not consider illegal the creation of offshore companies, unless the money comes from illegal sources, or if the money is not included in tax declarations.
According to RCN Radio, the government tried to label Panama as a tax haven in 2014 so money transfers could be taxed, but later abandoned the measure under the pressure of Panama’s government on the one hand, and the four most powerful and influential people in Colombia on the other.
Published 4 April 2016
Find this story at 4 April 2016
Colombia’s Former Spy Chief Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison (2015)
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA—The former head of Colombia’s intelligence service was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Thursday for spying on opposition lawmakers, judges and journalists in one of the biggest scandals to mar the government of ex-President Alvaro Uribe.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, 51, headed the now-defunct Administrative Security Department (DAS) intelligence service from 2007 to 2008, which was shut down following the scandal and replaced with a new intelligence entity.
Hurtado received political asylum in Panama in 2010, but the Panamanian government revoked it last year. She surrendered to authorities in January, hours after Interpol released an international order for her arrest.
The former spymaster was tried in absentia for illegally intercepting phone calls and abuse of public office, among other crimes. Separately, Bernardo Moreno, one of Uribe’s aides, was given an eight-year sentence for his involvement, to be served at his home.
Uribe, who led an aggressive military offensive against Marxist rebels during his 2002-2010 presidency, has denied any involvement in illegal activity at DAS. He is now a senator and the head of a right-wing opposition party.
Two-thirds of Uribe’s closest political allies during his presidency, including ex-cabinet ministers, have been convicted, sanctioned or investigated for crimes ranging from corruption to hacking.
Uribe says the string of convictions are an effort by his political opponents to persecute him. President Juan Manuel Santos, once Uribe’s defense minister, infuriated the former leader when he succeeded him, by opening peace talks with the leftist FARC rebels after decimating their ranks on the battlefield.
April 30, 2015 7:43 PM
Find this story at 30 April 2015
Wiretapping, corruption charges pile up for former Panama president Martinelli (2015)
April 13, 2016
In January, Panama prosecutors arrested two former security ministers on charges of illegal wiretapping and intercepting internet communications, in just one of several ongoing cases accusing the previous administration of widespread power abuse and mismanagement of public funds.
The most scandalous allegation broke when prosecutors announced they had found telephone and internet communication intercepting equipment on January 12. Police arrested two members of ex-president Ricardo Martinelli’s government – former chief of police and ex-security minister Gustavo Pérez and former vice security minister Alejandro Garúz – on charges of surveillance without judicial approval.
The list of alleged surveillance victims was impressive. It included two judges on Panama’s Supreme Court, U.S. CIA agents, the archbishop of Panama, leaders from political parties that opposed Martinelli’s Democratic Change Party (CD), construction union leaders and even members of Martinelli’s own cabinet and political party. Local media continue to release more complete lists of victims as they become available.
In the wiretapping case, no direct accusations against Martinelli have yet emerged. However, one of the alleged wiretap victims – former director of the National Aid Program Rafael Guardia – is under investigation for awarding an inflated $45 million contract for dehydrated food. On January 26, Guardia alleged that Martinelli gave the order to sign the inflated contracts.
Guardia fell under investigation after authorities discovered $9 million in bank accounts connected to Guardia, despite having only earned $161,000 in salary during a 23-month stint in social welfare agency.
Additional investigations are ongoing against former education ministers, former social development ministers and a Supreme Court judge appointed by Martinelli.
Martinelli left Panama on January 28 to attend a meeting of the Central American Parliament – a regional coordinating body – where he serves as a Panama representative. He has yet to return to Panama. He did, however, grant an interview to Miami-based journalist María Salazar, accusing current president Juan Carlos Varela of a political witch hunt.
“We are only the opposition political party,” Martinelli told Salazar. “I’m the only leader that threatens [Varela] right now.”
Martinelli went on to accuse Varela of interfering with every aspect of the government, suggesting that the prosecutor’s office is not acting independently. He said that he used to consider Varela, who served as a vice president and Foreign Minister in Martinelli’s government, one of his best friends.
Martinelli dismissed Varela as Foreign Minister in 2011 and the two feuded publicly over accusations of Martinelli’s corruption during his remaining tenure as vice president. Martinelli’s wife, Marta Linares, also ran as a vice-presidential candidate for Martinelli’s CD party in 2014, against Varela.
As a member of the Central American Parliament, Martinelli enjoys a legal protection under Panamanian law provided to all elected officials. However, on Tuesday, Panama’s election authority, the Electoral Tribunal, lifted that exemption for the dehydrated food contract case.
President Varela is standing by the actions of the prosecutors, saying that he has not interfered in their investigations in an interview with CNN en Español.
“The investigations have nothing to do with the political life, the economic life, nor the social life of the country,” Varela told CNN. “They are very strong allegations on invasions of privacy of the citizens of the country, the disappearance of surveillance equipment and isolated themes being handled by the prosecutors.”
by Corey Kane | 13th February 2015 | @corkane
Find this story at 13 February 2015
© Copyright 2016 Latin Correspondent
Ex-Spy Chief Charged in 1989 Slaying of Colombian (2015)
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA – A former director of Colombia’s DAS intelligence agency has turned himself in after the Attorney General’s Office ordered his arrest in connection with the 1989 assassination of reformist presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.
Miguel Maza Marquez surrendered late Tuesday at a DAS academy.
Prosecutors say Maza Marquez made changes to Liberal Party hopeful Galan’s security detail just hours before he was killed on Aug. 18, 1989, at a campaign rally in the Bogota suburb of Soacha.
One of the slain politician’s sons, Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, said his family received the news of the arrest with a sense of calm.
“We received this news with serenity,” the relative said, adding that he trusts “the Colombian justice system has the will and capacity to do justice” in this case.
Since early Tuesday, top officials with the AG office have been analyzing the legal issues surrounding this case to prevent any potential indictments from being blocked by the statute of limitations.
But no time limit would apply for initiating legal proceedings if the AG office determines Galan’s murder to be a crime against humanity.
The investigation into Maza Marquez, who was a presidential candidate himself after leaving the DAS, began about a month ago, when then-Attorney General Mario Iguaran said there was sufficient evidence to summon him for questioning.
Former fighters with the ostensibly demobilized AUC paramilitary federation have said in sworn statements that Maza Marquez played a key role in Galan’s murder. But, according to prosecutors, testimony by erstwhile warlord Ernesto Baez giving details of the ex-DAS official involvement in the slaying carried the most weight.
Politicians and drug kingpins are suspected of planning and instigating the still-unsolved murder, among them former Sen. Alberto Santofimio Botero and late Medellin cartel chief Pablo Escobar.
Galan was the favorite in the 1990 presidential election; his campaign manager, Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, won the balloting following his murder. EFE
Find this story at 2015
Copyright Latin American Herald Tribune
Cartel de Cali ofreció a presidente Barco matar a Escobar (2015)
April 13, 2016
El exdirector del DAS general (r) Miguel Alfredo Maza Márquez señaló que la organización mafiosa le ofreció al mandatario asesinar a quien fuera su más enconado rival.
Maza Márquez: Cartel de Cali ofreció matar a Pablo Escobar Cartel de Cali ofreció a presidente Barco matar a Escobar Foto: Guillermo Torres
Este martes se cumplió el segundo día del juicio contra el exdirector del DAS general (r) Miguel Maza Márquez, ante la corte Suprema de Justicia por su presunta responsabilidad en la muerte del entonces candidato presidencial Luis Carlos Sarmiento en 1989.
Como ha sido habitual en el proceso, Maza se ha defendido de los señalamientos en su contra argumentando que todo hace parte de un complot en su contra gestado por la familia Galán.
Como se preveía, dentro de sus narraciones han empezado a fluir detalles ignotos para la opinión pública. Precisamente, este martes aseguró que el presidente Virgilio Barco (1986-1990) aseguró que los capos del cartel de Cali le ofrecieron matar su más enconado rival: Pablo Escobar, capo del cartel de Medellín.
“El presidente Barco me comunicó la propuesta que se le había hecho y yo le dije: ‘Señor presidente, yo no hablo con ningún delincuente porque eso posteriormente me lo van a cobrar’”, dijo.
Maza contó que ante la negativa del Gobierno, los hermanos Rodríguez, jefes del cartel de Cali, insistieron. No obstante, la posición oficial fue que si ellos querían colaborar, podía usar las líneas telefónicas que el Gobierno había divulgado en los medios de comunicación para que las personas denunciaran.
Por otra parte, Maza Márquez manifestó ante los magistrados que tiene nuevas fotos que por sus propios medios consiguió y que advierten que el entonces recientemente nombrado jefe de escoltas de Galán Sarmiento, Jacobo Torregrosa, nunca dejó de acompañar al candidato en Soacha ese fatídico 18 de agosto de 1989, tal como él ha insistido.
No obstante, el magistrado que preside la audiencia, Fernando Castro, le inquirió acerca de la procedencia de estas fotos. El oficial en retiro aseguró que las tiene desde hace un mes, que no sabe aún cuántas son y que -supuestamente- sólo se las ha mostrado a su abogado defensor.
Sin embargo, el abogado de Maza dijo no tener conocimiento de dicho material, pero que había recibido en las últimas 24 horas un paquete que al parecer contiene un registro fotográfico. ¿Qué otros secretos revelará Maza?
NACIÓN | 2015/06/02 16:18
Find this story at 02 June 2015
COPYRIGHT © 2016 PUBLICACIONES SEMANA S.A.
Fugitive former Colombian spy chief surrenders in Panama (2015)
April 13, 2016
Panama’s Deputy Foreign Minister Álvaro Aleman, right, accompanies Maria del Pilar Hurtado as she leaves the foreign ministry building in Panama City in 2010. Photo: AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File
The former head of Colombia’s intelligence agency has surrendered to authorities.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado is accused of ordering illegal wiretaps on politicians, journalists and even Supreme Court justices opposed to former President Álvaro Uribe.
She fled to Panama in 2010 and was granted asylum arguing that she was being targeted politically by Uribe’s successor, President Juan Manuel Santos. Several other Uribe aides under investigation for corruption have also left Colombia saying they can’t receive a fair trial here.
Panama’s Supreme Court last year overturned the decision granting the spy chief refuge, saying it was unconstitutional.
Hurtado’s lawyer Jaime Camacho told RCN radio on Saturday that his client turned herself in after midnight to authorities in Panama. She’s now being held at the chief prosecutor’s office in Bogotá.
by Latin Correspondent | 2nd February 2015
Find this story at 2 February 2015
© Copyright 2016 Latin Correspondent
Colombian officials flee justice — and the country (2014)
April 13, 2016
Over the last decade, Western media has fairly extensively covered the War on Drugs carried out by the U.S. and Colombian governments, writing profiles and producing segments on the string of drug traffickers facing justice –often after being extradited to the US. The criminal justice system, apparently, has been working.
Less widely known is the reality that some of the Colombians that have left the country in recent years — usually heading north — haven’t left to face justice. Instead, they’ve been fleeing it. And these weren’t criminals heading up drug trafficking groups, but rather former members of the Colombian government itself.
At the end of August, Julian Marulanda, the former head of a government body known as the National Protection Unit, which provides security to threatened individuals including political figures and human rights defenders, fled to Miami to avoid facing corruption charges.
Less than a week later, Sandra Morelli, the former Comptroller General, fled to Rome to avoid corruption charges just one day after finishing her term. She claims to have left Colombia due to a lack of “procedural guarantees” in the investigation of alleged abuses she committed while acting head of the highest fiscal watchdog in the country.
These two officials are in good company. Several other top Colombian government officials from the previous administration of former President Álvaro Uribe have also sought asylum abroad over the last few years.
This past June, the ex-Minister of Agriculture Andres Felipe Arias decided to leave for vacation the same day Colombian media reported a potential guilty ruling in his four-year court case. He was eventually convicted of embezzling $25 million from state subsidies intended for poor farmers and distributing the money to powerful families and even paramilitary groups instead. If Arias, who currently lives with his family in the U.S., ever returns to Colombia, he’ll have to serve more than 17 years in prison.
Serious crimes — but no punishment
Even these charges, serious as they may be, appear relatively mild next to the alleged crimes committed by other officials in the Uribe administration.
In 2010, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the former head of Uribe’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS, fled to Panama, where she still resides. It has been alleged, and substantial evidence suggests that under her leadership the DAS spied on President Uribe’s political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and even Supreme Court judges who were investing Uribe’s political allies’ ties to paramilitary groups. The U.S. government, which counted Uribe as a close ally at the time, was also implicated in these crimes, as it had provided much of the equipment used in the wiretapping scandal.
Yet another Uribe-era official to flee the country was the former High Peace Commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo. Just before Uribe’s successful bid for re-election in 2006, Restrepo allegedly organized the demobilization of a fake FARC guerrilla unit with the help of a former guerrilla fighter and drug trafficker.
Paramilitary leaders have also accused Restrepo of undermining the demobilization process by having all the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) paramilitary blocs demobilize simultaneously, thus inundating the prosecutor general’s office with so many cases that the overburdened office couldn’t process the vast majority of them. If true, this strategy appears to have largely been successful, as to date only 36 paramilitary leaders have been convicted out of the almost 2,700 who participated in the demobilization process. Restrepo fled in 2012, many believe to the US.
With these long list of alleged — and often very serious — crimes, how successful have these government officials been in their attempts to escape the reach of the law?
It still too soon to say. Colombian newsweekly Semana just reported this week that Restrepo has been given asylum in Canada, thought the Canadian embassy has neither confirmed nor denied this. For the moment, at least, he appears safely out of reach of the Colombian justice system.
Arias has applied for asylum in the U.S., but Colombia has asked Interpol to issue a warrant for his arrest, and the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled to begin the process of his extradition. It’s unclear how long this process could take.
Hurtado has been in Panama for nearly four years and the Colombian government has twice failed to extradite her. The Panamanian government claims her charges are not included in the extradition treaty signed by the two countries. However, as TeleSurTV reported Monday, Panamanian authorities would agree to extradite her if requested to do so by Interpol.
Morelli might be able to use her Italian citizenship to avoid extradition, while it is unclear what options exist for Marulanda.
What is clear, though, is that as long as these officials continue to escape justice for the crimes they committed while they were members of the government, institutional corruption and abuses of power will continue unabated in Colombia.
by Joel Gillin | 11th September 2014 | @joelgillin
Find this story at 11 September 2014
© Copyright 2016 Latin Correspondent
Allegations of secret Colombian plan to undermine EU (2010)
April 13, 2016
A group of MEPs is calling for action as further details of an alleged covert operation conducted by the Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) continue to emerge, with one of its reported aims being to undermine the authority of the European Parliament.
Recently released documents that were confiscated from the DAS by the Colombian Attorney General’s office highlight the nature of “Operation Europe.”
The alleged action in Europe includes phone tapping and the interception of emails (Photo: Flickr.com)
Its objective was to “neutralise the influence of the European judicial system, the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” reads one text seen by this website.
Following lines suggest the process of discrediting these institutions should be carried out by waging a “legal war.”
News of the Colombian agency’s activities targeting national and international human rights defenders, NGOs and democratic organisations, of which ‘Operation Europe’ was only one part, first broke in the Colombian media in early 2009.
As the scandal grew, former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe finally moved to stem the criticism by introducing legislation late last year to overhaul the controversial agency, although it has yet to be approved by the country’s legislature.
But a group of MEPs, primarily from the European Parliament’s Green group, are not satisfied, fearing that the reported campaign of close surveillance and threat-making against Bogota’s critics may simply continue under a different guise.
Their concerns are backed up by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, among others, a group of legal activists that says the law does not “establish adequate, effective and independent oversight of intelligence activities.”
Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek is one of those to have put questions to the European Commission and Council of Ministers, but said the answers she received were “not satisfactory.”
In responding to the queries last month, the commission said it was “well aware of the reports relating to alleged illegal spying by the DAS” and has raised the matter with the Colombian authorities on several occasions.
The EU executive body added that it has faith in the current investigation being carried out by the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office and has been informed of the draft law to liquidate the DAS and set up a new agency.
Others want more, however.
“There should be a full police and judicial investigation of the alleged crimes,” said centre-left MEP Richard Howitt. “All of us at member-state level and within the European institutions should take full responsibility for making sure such investigations are conducted.”
Hopes for the Belgian Presidency
Unhappy with the current level of action, Ms Lunacek says she has greater hopes for the next six months, with Spain set to hand over the reins of the EU’s rotating presidency on 1 July.
“The Spanish government is very in favour of the free trade agreement with Colombia [initialed in May], and they don’t want anything to jeopardise that,” the Austrian deputy told EUobserver. “But then the Belgians will take over the presidency and they have citizens that have been proven to have suffered phone tapping by the DAS.”
One of those Belgian citizens who claims to have been a victim of DAS activities is Paul-Emile Dupret, a political advisor to the European Parliament’s left-wing United European Left (GUE) group.
“My name is mentioned on the DAS file several times,” he says, believing it to be partially the result of his involvement in the organisation of an anti-Uribe protest in 2004 when the ex-President visited the European Parliament.
Several months after the protest, Mr Dupret was arrested upon landing in the United States. “I was interrogated when I arrived, put in prison for 24 hours, asked dozens of questions about by views on Colombia,” he says. “Since then I have been prevented from returning to the US. They now consider me a terrorist.”
The close ties between Washington and Bogota are well known.
The Belgian citizen is currently working with a group of other victims and a team of lawyers, and plans to present their collective case against the Colombian agency in the Belgian courts this July, the first European citizens to do so.
Certain European NGOs also claim to have been the target of a concerted campaign to discredit their activities and tarnish their reputations. Amongst them is the Belgian faith-based NGO Broederlijk Delen, whose representative Patricia Verbauwhede attended a press conference in parliament this week.
“The EU needs to make a statement on the DAS,” she said. “We request an investigation of the DAS on European soil and we feel the EU should not conclude its free trade agreement with Colombia.”
So far the sought-after strong statements and investigations have not been forthcoming.
By ANDREW WILLIS
BRUSSELS, 25. JUN 2010, 09:28
Find this story at 25 June 2010
Colombia Calling: The Other Wiretap Scandal (2009)
April 13, 2016
ILLUSTRATION BY LEO GARCIAWhen the editorial staff of Semana, a feisty Bogotá-based weekly news magazine, was closing out their Feb. 21 edition, they couldn’t help but notice an unmarked car parked for several hours in front of their building. This came as no surprise to editor- in-chief Alfonso Cuéllar, who supervised a six-month long investigation of illegal wiretapping by Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Administrative Department of Security, known in Colombia as the DAS.
“We knew that both the good guys and the bad guys were aware that we were working on the story,” said Cuéllar in a recent interview from Bogotá. “That’s partly why the DAS was shredding all of the evidence a month before it broke.” Backed up by numerous sources and documents, Semana exposed how members of the DAS were illegally spying on Supreme Court judges, former Colombian president César Gaviria, opposition politicians, prominent journalists and even high-ranking members of the ruling party.
Amongst a roster of Machiavellian allegations — from KGB-like tactics used to create “vice files” on prominent politicians, to the selling of sensitive intelligence to narco traffickers and those with links to illegal paramilitary organizations and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas — is one charge that will be of particular interest to the United States, especially as the country contemplates the fallout from its own domestic surveillance scandal. The U.S. government, according to the Semana report, supplied the sophisticated interception devices used by the spies in Colombia.
NOT EVERYBODY IS SO AGNOSTIC
“It will be interesting to see if the rumors that are circulating in Bogotá, that the U.S. Embassy had a role in the wiretapping operation, turn out to be true,” said Joseph Fitsanakis, senior editor of IntelNews and a longtime intelligence analyst. “It won’t be the first time.”
According to sources in Bogotá, the DAS used a system called Phantom 3000, marketed by a company called TraceSpan Communications, a private U.S. company with a development center in Israel. “In this age of high security threats, when foreign terrorists and local criminals use the Internet for communication, TraceSpan is proud to provide Law Enforcement Authorities a new means to fight back,” said Hanan Herzberg, TraceSpan founder and CEO, in a press release for the product. “The system’s small footprint makes it an ideal solution for any law enforcement agency as well as the perfect solution for the Central Office.”
This wouldn’t be the first time that U.S.- supplied intelligence gear was used by the Colombian government. In 2006, the U.S. State Department awarded a $5 million contract to California-based Oakley Networks to provide “Internet surveillance software” to a specialized unit of Colombia’s National Police. The details of that deal emerged when the National Police were accused of spying on a variety of Colombian human-rights groups, as well as U.S.-based interfaith organization, Fellowship of Reconciliation. Oakley Networks, now a subsidiary of the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Co., bills itself as a “leader in insider threat monitoring and investigations,” that offers “sophisticated monitoring and discovery technologies.”
The Oakley Networks contract came as part of the more than $5 billion the United States has sent to Colombia since 2000 to fund Plan Colombia, ostensibly an effort to eradicate production of the coca leaf. The funding has continued despite the Colombian military’s ties to right-wing paramilitary groups and to the killing of union leaders, human rights activists and indigenous people.
U.S. REMAINS A KEY FRIEND
In Bogotá, the ramifications of the Semana investigation were immediate. The offices of the DAS were raided by the Colombian prosecutor general’s office, the day following Semana’s original story, and the agency’s director general, Capt. Jorge Alberto Lagos, resigned the following week. The entire high command of the agency submitted letters of resignation and Colombia’s attorney general recently declared that 22 DAS detectives had been fired and would face “judicial and administrative investigations,” while also intimating that more dismissals are coming down the pike. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, for years the Bush administration’s staunchest ally in Latin America, quickly denied any role in the imbroglio and declared that wiretapping would be immediately reassigned to the National Police. As this was the third such scandal in the DAS under Uribe’s watch, not everybody is taking the denial at face value.
The scandal broke just four months after the former head of the DAS resigned after admitting it spied on a prominent leftist politician who had exposed ties between Uribe and rightwing death squads.
“I don’t think it’s a very plausible argument that these were just low-level characters in the DAS, who were setting up these illegal wiretaps on their own initiative,” said Lorenzo Morales, online editor at Semana. “The DAS receives its orders directly from the [Colombian] president and his inner circle.”
The spy scandal does not appear to have dampened U.S.-Colombian relations. Semana broke the story just before Colombia sent a highlevel delegation to meet with Obama administration officials. On Feb. 25, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez Merizalde by saying, “It’s a real pleasure to have the representative of a country that has made so many strides and so much progress, and we have a lot to talk about because there is so much we have in common to work on.” Less than two months later, at the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama sat next to Uribe and discussed the possibility of a U.S.-Colombian “free trade” agreement — a deal Obama opposed on the campaign trail.
In Bogotá, U.S. embassy officials have not denied playing a role in the Colombian spy operation.
“We have worked with the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) in joint and regional counter-narcotics efforts in a positive and straightforward manner, including providing equipment,” states a diplomatic official at the embassy. “We have no knowledge that any equipment has been misused.”
Semana’s Alfonso Cuéllar says he hopes the paper’s report will put an end to illegal spying.
“I think that one thing we found in our investigation, at least amongst the DAS officials, was that some of these guys don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, they think it’s normal,” he said. “They say, what’s wrong with checking out people that could be potential enemies of the state, or adversaries of the president? Hopefully, one of the things these revelations will get people thinking about is that no, this is not normal.”
Joseph Huff-Hannon is an independent journalist based in Brooklyn who writes on politics and culture.
A coalition of U.S. organizations have called on the U.S. embassy in Bogotá to pressure Colombian officials to stop spying on human rights and peace organizations.
Between 2006 and 2008, Colombian agencies reportedly intercepted more than 150 email accounts of groups including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith peace organization in the United States.
“[This] puts at risk our field team and the communities we work with, by suggesting that those working for peace and human rights are subversive, legitimate targets for right-wing violence,” said John Lindsay-Poland, co-director of the Fellowship’s Task Force on Latin America.
The spy operation began after the U.S. State Department awarded a $5 million contract to the California-based Oakley Networks to provide “internet surveillance software” to the intelligence unit of the Colombian National Police as part of Plan Colombia.
“U.S. taxpayers were apparently paying for Colombian agencies to spy on legitimate U.S. and Colombian humanitarian organizations,” wrote the authors of a December 2008 letter to U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield in Bogotá.
In addition, the Fellowship of Reconciliation fears a June 2007 break-in at the organization’s Bogotá office was connected to the surveillance campaign.
“We’ve also now learned that the Colombian military paid for computer hard drives of interest to intelligence’ agencies … These stolen laptops contained sensitive files on our work with members of Colombian peace communities,” Lindsay-Poland said.
MAY 14, 2009 ISSUE #135 —MIKE BURKE
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Venezuela seizes ‘Colombia spies’ (2009)
April 13, 2016
Venezuela has announced the arrest of a number of people whom it accuses of being agents spying for Colombia.
Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Arias Cardenas said they were members of Colombia’s DAS state security agency.
He said they were “captured carrying out actions of espionage”, without giving any further details.
Ties between the two nations have been frozen since July when Colombia said it would let the US army use its military bases for anti-drugs operations.
The agreement has caused alarm among some of Colombia’s neighbours, who object to an increased US military presence in the region.
When news of the deal first broke in August, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that “winds of war” were blowing across the continent.
Mr Cardenas said on Tuesday that Caracas would soon produce evidence to back up its claims in the spying row.
“Do not underestimate the importance of an event as serious and as grave as the capture of Colombian DAS security agents committing acts of espionage,” he told reporters in Caracas.
Colombia’s ambassador to Venezuela, Maria Luisa Chiappe, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying she had no information about DAS agents working on Venezuelan soil.
Page last updated at 22:52 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009
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Colombia to dismantle troubled intelligence agency (2009)
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA, Sept 18 Colombia’s state intelligence agency will be dissolved, the government said on Friday, following a flood of scandals in which agents are accused of wire-tapping judges, reporters and opposition politicians.
Former officials of the DAS agency are also being investigated for taking bribes in exchange for providing right-wing cocaine-funded paramilitaries with hit lists of union leaders and human rights activists.
Agents are accused of continuing to listen in on the phone conversations of politicians, rights workers and journalists despite public outcry over the practice.
“The DAS will be dissolved in order to make way for a new civilian intelligence agency,” DAS chief Felipe Munoz said in a statement posted on Colombia’s presidential website.
“A definitive change is needed,” the statement said.
The new agency will offer “absolute trust and transparency,” it said.
The move could help allay fears in Washington among Democratic lawmakers who have blocked a trade deal with Colombia based on accusations that President Alvaro Uribe has allowed local union leaders to be persecuted with impunity.
Uribe, Washington’s main ally in South America, said on Thursday that the DAS should be dismantled and that the national police could take over many of its responsibilities.
A bill will be presented to Congress next week proposing the end of the DAS and outlining the structure of the new intelligence agency, according to Munoz’s statement.
More than 40 former DAS employees are being investigated over the telephone-bugging accusations.
Despite these and other scandals, Uribe is seen as a hero to many for his crackdown on Marxist guerrillas. He may stand for an unprecedented third term next year if his supporters manage to amend the constitution to allow him to run.
Margaret Sekaggya, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders, earlier on Friday called on the DAS to stop its illegal monitoring of activists.
She said the surveillance has been used to trump up false charges against rights workers, who are regularly accused by government officials of supporting the outlawed rebel army known as the FARC.
(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:49pm EDT
Find this story at 18 September 2009
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Colombia Spy Agency Fires 22 for Illegal Wiretaps (2009)
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA – Colombia’s DAS security service fired 22 detectives, apparently in connection with an investigation into the illegal wiretapping of leading public figures, the press said on Tuesday.
Monday witnessed “one of the biggest purges in the recent history of the DAS” after a meeting of director with the services internal-affairs panel, El Tiempo newspaper said.
“When questioned about the reason for the dismissals, spokespeople for the agency said Muñoz affected them making use of the discretionary authority the law gives him, and that there will another purge this Friday,” the daily said.
The fired detectives continue to face judicial and administrative investigations.
The acting chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court, Jaime Arrubla, said on Tuesday in an interview with La W radio that Attorney General Mario Iguaran told him senior officials appear to have had a role in the illegal wiretaps.
While Caracol Radio reported that the AG’s office has evidence showing four separate groups within DAS conducted the illegal eavesdropping, using equipment provided by the United States and Britain.
Each group was assigned targets by senior DAS officials, Caracol said, and the groups’ files were found to contain information about the credit reports and personal finances of magistrates and court employees.
“Notable was the existence of a folder marked ‘Vices and Weaknesses,’ in which is provided a detailed report about very intimate matters of opposition political leaders and judges. They provided details about sexual preferences, whether or not the people had lovers, if they consumed liquor or drugs,” Caracol Radio said.
In late February, the scandal over the unlawful wiretaps forced President Alvaro Uribe to announce that he would no longer allow DAS to conduct electronic surveillance.
Uribe said then that the National Police would take over responsibility for monitoring conversations via telephone and the Internet.
The story was broken in January by Colombian newsweekly Semana, which said the targets of the spying included Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos – seen as a future presidential hopeful – and the head of the National Police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo.
Also monitored were former President Cesar Gaviria, erstwhile Supreme Court Chief Justice Francisco Javier Ricaurte, who has frequently sparred with Uribe; and several of the country’s most influential journalists.
Wiretapping scandals are nothing new in Colombia.
In 2007, Uribe sacked his top police chiefs after the telephone bugging of opposition members, state officials and journalists came to light.
The previous DAS director, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, resigned late last year after admitting her subordinates had been spying on opposition Sen. Gustavo Petro, who has been a key figure in exposing ties between Uribe allies and right-wing paramilitaries.
Another previous DAS director, Jorge Noguera, is behind bars while under investigation for allegedly colluding with the militias.
Petro said in February that the administration was behind the latest illegal wiretaps, but Uribe has vehemently denied the accusation, saying that “a criminal gang” operating within the agency and at the service of drug traffickers was responsible. EFE
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Acusan a Central Inteligencia Colombia de seguir con espionaje (2009)<< oudere artikelen
April 13, 2016
BOGOTA (Reuters) – La Central de Inteligencia de Colombia, inmersa en un escándalo de espionaje, siguió interceptando ilegalmente comunicaciones telefónicas de congresistas para establecer sus posiciones ante un referendo sobre la reelección presidencial, dijo el domingo una revista.
La nueva denuncia podría aumentar las críticas contra el Gobierno del presidente Alvaro Uribe, por la falta de medidas eficaces para controlar la agencia de seguridad, bajo su mando directo, en momentos en que la Cámara de Representantes se dispone a votar en último debate un referendo sobre reelección.
El escándalo en el Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) estalló en febrero después de que la revista Semana aseguró que funcionarios del organismo de seguridad interceptaban ilegalmente comunicaciones de magistrados, jueces, periodistas y funcionarios del Gobierno.
Después de la denuncia la Fiscalía General ocupó la sede de la central de inteligencia, confiscó algunos de los equipos de interceptaciones y Uribe le suspendió las funciones de espionaje.
“¿Qué es lo que está pasando en las últimas semanas y qué nos interesa? Simple: el referendo. Hay que saber en qué están y qué están pensando los políticos”, dijo a Semana uno de los funcionarios encargados de las interceptaciones que no se identificó.
La Cámara de Representantes se alista para discutir y votar esta semana en último debate el texto de un referendo que busca habilitar a Uribe para buscar su segunda reelección inmediata en el 2010.
El director del DAS, Felipe Muñoz, solicitó a la Fiscalía investigar las denuncias del medio periodístico, negó interceptaciones desde la central de inteligencia y anunció su disposición de colaborar con las averiguaciones en una rueda de prensa.
El escándalo que se inició en febrero provocó la renuncia y destitución de más de 30 funcionarios de la Central de Inteligencia, en la que laboran 6.500 funcionarios.
(Reporte de Luis Jaime Acosta. Editado por Javier López de Lérida)
domingo 30 de agosto de 2009 23:28 GYT Imprimir [-] Texto [+]
Find this story at 30 August 2009
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