FARC-ELN letter says Army spying threatens Colombia’s peace process

Colombia’s two largest guerrilla insurgencies released a joint message Tuesday reacting to a developing scandal over a secret Army surveillance program.

Leaders of the FARC and ELN rebel groups said revelations of a clandestine military program that intercepted and recorded the communications of opposition politicians, journalists, and delegates on either side of ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, being held in Havana, Cuba, jeopardize the possibility of a peaceful reconciliation to Colombia’s longstanding armed conflict.

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“Old state practices are still alive and active,” read the statement, in reference to the past military and paramilitary targeting of parties deemed enemies of state interests. By allowing the military to insert itself into the Havana negotiations and monitor civilians, said the letter, the Colombian government was putting the peace process itself at risk and “damag[ing] the likelihood” of the ELN entering similar talks.

“Peace and reconciliation can go badly wrong if the actions of military and police intelligence are not definitively separated from the process,” read the statement, which went on to accuse the Colombian government of using the peace talks in Cuba to “fulfill tasks of intelligence or military operations, which not only undermines confidence in the seriousness of the interlocutor, but leads to the failure of the very purpose of the meeting.”

News of the Army’s secret spying program broke last Monday, when results of a 15-month investigation were published by the Semana magazine, indicating that a covert military program was tracking the communications of both government and rebel representatives to the Cuba negotiations, as well as opposition politicians involved in the peace process. Earlier this week, the United States-based Univision media company reported that thousands of emails between FARC spokespeople and international journalists were also being intercepted.

MORE: Colombia spying on journalists reporting on peace talks

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered official investigations into the program, and has set a deadline of this Friday for the reports to be finalized.

Posted on the ELN website Tuesday, the FARC-ELN letter is dated February 7 and was supposedly signed by commanders Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias “Gabino,” of the ELN and Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” of the FARC.


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