Colombia demands answers and sanctions from the government for espionage by the Army

The scandal over the Colombian Army's espionage of journalists, politicians and human rights defenders has brought the country out of the lethargy of the coronavirus pandemic, which requires explanations from the Government and sanctions for those responsible.

The revelation of the magazine Semana shook Colombians last Friday and since then, voices that demand punishment for those involved and that the military establishment stops using intelligence and counterintelligence to spy on journalists and ordinary citizens, have increased. Rather, use those resources against criminals and illegal groups.

"It is an old-time practice and there is a serious problem: in all countries there are intelligence services, but in all of them there are controls on their systems and the fact that this is repetitive in Colombia is a sign that these controls Either they do not work well or they are not enough, "Pedro Vaca, executive director of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), told Efe.

In the past, the Colombian Police and Armed Forces, with the help of the United States and other countries, developed powerful intelligence services to combat guerrilla and drug trafficking groups, but later fell into the temptation to use that ability to spy on the opposition.


The first major scandal of this type was revealed in 2009 by Semana, which brought to light the "blows", telephone interceptions of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) to magistrates, journalists and opponents in the second term of Álvaro Uribe (2002- 2010).

Then, in 2014, it was the turn of "Operation Andromeda", with which members of military intelligence spied on government negotiators in peace talks with the FARC and other times on politicians and journalists.

The case that now scares the country occurred between February and December 2019 and had also been revealed by Semana at the beginning of the year, but the detailed description of the way the military operated, made in its last edition, was the drop that filled the Cup.

Vaca said he was surprised by the universe of spied journalists, since there are from foreign correspondents of media such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, to Colombians, many of them young people just out of universities, such as members of alternative media La League Against Silence and Routes of Conflict.

"It is like something directed, rather than obeying a goal, it is as if they said (we are going to spy on) this and this other, and this other," added the executive director of FLIP, who, just after learning about Semana's complaint, published a harsh statement demanding answers from the Government.


The new espionage plot was deemed "inadmissible" by Colombian President Iván Duque, who promised punishment for those involved.

However, this formula does not satisfy the press, which does not want pre-made answers but concrete actions, a demand that has the support of political sectors and society in general.

"It is a type of response that we have heard in the past. There is a manifesto of rejection but it is still insufficient," Vaca added.

Last Friday, hours before Semana made the investigation entitled "The secret folders" public, the Defense Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, announced the withdrawal of the Army from eleven officers and the voluntary withdrawal of a general, which far from settling the controversy fueled it because it gave the impression that only measures were taken due to the pressure of the complaint.


In this regard, former President César Gaviria, director of the Liberal Party, said he was concerned "with the slowness and lack of diligence with which the national government has taken measures" against the military, since "in this way the seriousness is being underestimated. of the facts, which are very serious crimes. "

Despite praising Duque's attitude, in support of the Defense Ministry's decision to purge his ranks, Gaviria believes that the president "also has a responsibility," and that is "to correct this more severely."

"This is not solved with a number: 11 retired officers, it is solved with a detailed explanation of what happened, but these reactions have not yet reached that point; one appreciates that there is a rejection but there is itself no explanation when they have elapsed four months "from the initial complaint, Vaca added to Efe.

Until now it is not known who is behind this plot, but suspicions point to the Army commander at the time of the espionage, the questioned General Nicacio Martínez, who requested the termination of service last December, alleging "family reasons."


Despite the fact that they are holding virtual sessions due to the quarantine due to the coronavirus, congressmen from various parties have not overlooked the seriousness of the complaint and are starting to move cards to call a debate on political control of the Defense Minister and the leadership military.

The intention is that they explain who gives the orders on the intelligence objectives and what is the criteria to select them.

However, the military leadership seems to have little interest in helping to clarify it because in an interview with RCN Radio news director Yolanda Ruiz, one of the people mentioned in the folders, Generals Luis Fernando Navarro and Eduardo Zapateiro, commanders of the Military Forces and the Army, respectively, said they did not know where those documents are.

"General Zapateiro says he believes that the folders may be held by the Supreme Court after the raid on the (Army) intelligence facilities in Facatativá. General Navarro tells us that they do not know with certainty who has them. Complicated not knowing where it is that information, "Ruiz said.

The response from the military chiefs left the FLIP executive director "surprised", who considers that "this is worrying because a reasonable time has already elapsed for them to give more detailed responses."

Jaime Ortega Carrascal


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