The DAS ‘chuzadas’ scandal has continued to evolve. What seemed at first to be yet another infiltration of the government by organized crime has revealed itself as a case of political persecution, a true Colombian ‘dirty war’.
Semana, the Colombian news weekly spearheading the journalistic investigation into the wiretapping scandal, recently described ‘chuzadas’ as a ‘dirty war’, a term not used lightly in Latin America.
A true dirty war has three basic elements and the chuzadas scandal has all three in spades.
The first is official sanctioning. Everything indicates that most illegal ‘chuzadas’ were perpetrated by a secret DAS entity called the Special Intelligence Group 3. Although the G-3 was not officially a branch of the DAS, it was capable of sending official orders to other government entities and use state resources.
Documents indicate that the G-3 was created by controversial DAS director Jorge Noguera in 2004. Notably, after scandals drove Noguera out of the DAS in shame in 2005, the coordinator of the G-3, Jaime Fernando Ovalle, stayed at the DAS until November 2008.
The second element is political persecution. It has become increasingly clear that DAS wiretapping was nothing short of political warfare against the government’s ideological enemies, including human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians.
The G-3 was entirely dedicated to monitoring public critics of the government. The group even intercepted the emails of Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of the international NGO Human Rights Watch, and followed the every move of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
Further, according to Semana, after the dissolution of the G-3, the same illegal practices were used to investigate members of Colombia’s Supreme Court, who have on several occasions stood strongly against the President on a number of issues.
The third and final element is violence. The scandal could not be called a ‘dirty war’ without the implication of violence and here, too, the DAS is guilty of abuses. Jose Miguel Narvaez, a former DAS subdirector and alleged architect of the G-3, has on at least three occasions been accused of strong links to paramilitary death squads. Top paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso has alleged that Narvaez gave a speech to paramilitaries entitled ‘Why it is legal to kill communists in Colombia.’
Noguera, Narvaez’s boss at the DAS, has been accused of passing on intelligence information to paramilitary warlord ‘Jorge 40’ so that he could carry out political assassinations. These accusations have most clearly been linked to the murder of sociologist Alfredo Correa de Andreis. Correa was arrested in 2004 after being accused of being a FARC ideologue. After his release, his lawyer alleged that ‘dark forces’ were putting Correa’s life in danger. Three weeks later, the professor was killed by hitmen in Barranquilla.
There is a historical precedent for all these accusations of state violence and paramilitary links. On dozens of occasions, security forces have been found to have participated in massacres committed by paramilitary forces. In a few cases, the government has actually admitted guilt for such crimes.
More interestingly, this most recent Semana report comes just weeks after it was revealed that the Colombian government had secret torture and assassination squads in the 1970s and 1980s dedicated to intimidating and eliminating leftist elements and members of the opposition.
It is crucial that the ‘chuzadas’ are treated as nothing less as what they are, a genuine dirty war against political opponents of the current government. The historical record shows that the DAS needs much more than a change in leadership to prevent it from threatening freedom of the press, the lives of innocent human rights defenders and the integrity of Colombian democracy.