“Operación Jaque,” as seen by the FARC Launch: “A Compass for Colombia Policy”
Oct 212008

Senator Gustavo Petro, a leader of Colombia’s main left-of-center opposition party, released two very disturbing documents this afternoon. They are internal memoranda of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), the Colombian Presidency’s security and intelligence service, or “secret police.” Both were published within the past two months.

The first requests that DAS section chiefs send to Bogotá all intelligence that they have gathered about Senator Petro’s “ties … to illegal organizations” and his contacts with para-politics witnesses, or as the memo ominously puts it, “people who have come forward to testify against the government.” Petro has been an outspoken advocate of investigations into ties between paramilitary groups and politicians, most of whom are supporters of President Álvaro Uribe.

The second requests that DAS section chiefs help the agency gather intelligence about Senator Petro’s political party, the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA). The PDA is one of Colombia’s two principal opposition parties, whose members include congresspeople, senators, the mayor of Bogotá and the governor of Nariño.

Though the party is legally constituted, the DAS memo orders agents to spy on the party’s convention, scheduled for this weekend, to seek out evidence of ties to illegal armed groups, plans to “destabilize the National Government,” or – heaven forbid – ties to labor unions or non-governmental organizations.

These documents are frightening because of what they say about the Colombian government’s tolerance of dissent, its ability to distinguish between legitimate political participation and left-wing terrorism, and the amount of political space in which the political opposition can operate.

They should trigger a scandal, and an investigation into possible illegal infringement of Colombians’ right to organize and participate in political movements. They should also inspire the U.S. government to loosen its embrace of a government that is clearly going too far in an undemocratic direction.

Bogotá, August 29, 2008

To: Departmental Directors

From: Political and Social Intelligence Department Director

Subject: Information Request

I politely ask your collaboration in sending me any available information related to the activities of Gustavo Petro Urrego, senator from Polo Democrático Alternativo (Alternative Democratic Pole – leftist opposition party), taking into account:

  • Privileged information of ties or links with illegal organizations.
  • His contacts with people who have come forward to testify against the government.

It is requested that your response be sent to the e-mail politicosocial@das.gov.co by September 4, 2008. Please respond even if you do not have information.

Cordially,

Jaime Fernando Ovalle Olaz

Bogotá, September 16, 2008

To: Departmental Directors

From: Political and Social Intelligence Department Director

Subject: Information Request

Taking into account that the Polo Democratico Alternativo (PDA) is undergoing a series of internal divisions due to differing ideologies present in the various political positions represented in the party (moderate to radical leftist), and given the fact that the PDA will have its Second National Congress on October 26, 2008, I politely request your collaboration in sending available information concerning the following aspects:

1. Internal Division

  • PDA leaders’ alliances with domestic and international political movements.
  • Connections between PDA leaders and clandestine movements or illegal organizations.
  • International and domestic political support for the different political factions within the PDA.
  • Political statements, and public or clandestine activities, that party members are carrying out in the context of the PDA’s current political moment.

2. Second Congress of the PDA

  • The PDA’s alliances with domestic and international political movements.
  • The PDA’s connections to clandestine movements or illegal organizations.
  • Full identification of the delegates to the PDA’s Second National Congress, and their possible connections or ties to terrorist organizations.
  • Identification of terrorist organizations’ interest in the development of the PDA’s Second Congress.
  • Strategic plans to destablize the National Government.
  • Alliances with social organizations (Unions, NGOs, etc.)

It is requested that your response be sent to the e-mail politicosocial@das.gov.co by 5:00 PM on October 1, 2008. Please respond even if you do not have information.

Cordially,

Jaime Fernando Ovalle Olaz

11 Responses to “Spying on the opposition”

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Just when you are trying to assimilate one scandal another one pops up! :lol:

  2. Colombia » Colombia radio host connects hostages with family Says:

    [...] Spying on the oppositionSenator Gustavo Petro, a leader of Colombia’s main left-of-center opposition party, released two very disturbing documents this afternoon. They are internal memoranda of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), the Colombian … [...]

  3. Marcos Says:

    But when Chávez or Morales or Correa Castro do this, it’s somehow completely fair and justified because of whatever reason.

    I think governments have a right to know, especially in countries at war like Colombia, if the opposition has ties to those that seek its destruction or destabilization. That much is fair as long as it is all done within the law. When not, then it’s not. If this is illegal or leads to crimes, it’s bad. But if not, the I think it’s far more justified than what other leaders in the region have done.

    Regards,

    Marcos

  4. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Marcos are you sure you don’t starch your shirts with gravel and glue? :lol:

  5. Jose David Says:

    Marcos, get down to earth. When Venezuela or Bolivia points at opposition parties, they usually bring relevant evidence of US-money chanelled to these parties through National Endowment for Democracy and USAids programs, not to promote democracy but rather to destabilize democratic elected governments. When oppositon leaders in Colombia denounce the mafia running the country, they always get labeled as terrorist, and their base end up in a mass grave.

  6. boz Says:

    As an update, the head of the DAS resigned this morning over the incident.

  7. Marcos Says:

    But how was that evidence obtained, Jose David? Did it fall from the trees?

    Don’t tell me none of it needed to be gathered through intelligence monitoring and spying of the opposition. I’d like to see how you think that evidence came out.

    Whatever the case I think you just proved my point.

    For you Chavez is a saint fighting for justice against evil opposition, in Colombia the opposition is made up of saints fighting for justice against the evil Uribe or the evil government in general.

    Regards.

    Marcos.

  8. Jose David Says:

    You don’t need to be a geek in spionage to know the already public information about NED and USAID funding for opposition groups in those countries. There’s plenty of information gathered through declassified documents thanks to Freedom of Information Act. That’s how I knew about them; and in cases where illegal intelligence (which I condemn) has been gathered from these groups in Bolivia and Venezuela, the government goes so far as to try to discredit them. Something very different from what occurs in Colombia where illegal intelligence is passed to death squads, and victims end up shot or dissapeared; this was my point.

  9. Global Voices em Português » Colômbia: Outro escândalo de escuta telefônica ilegal Says:

    [...] Petro denunciou que ele e seu partido estavam sendo seguidos pelo pessoal do DAS desde agosto e publicou dois memorandos emitidos por um chefe de seção do DAS. Seu diretor e um oficial de [...]

  10. Global Voices teny Malagasy » Colombia: Tratra ny fitsikilovana ara-pifandraisana tsy manara-dalana Says:

    [...] dia efa nanjakain’ny olona avy amin’ny DAS nanomboka tamin’ny volana Aogostra ary efa namoaka ankarihary ireo resaka fifandraisana anaty anankiroa nomen’ny sefon’ny DAS.  Nitsoaka an-daharana anefa ny [...]

  11. Plan Colombia and Beyond » The new DAS scandal Says:

    [...] murder. Late last year, the supposedly “reformed” DAS was found to have been ordering surveillance of opposition Senator Gustavo Petro, a revelation that forced the resignation of DAS Director [...]

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