A Stasi-like civilian informant network is aggravating terror in Colombia, which already has seen a surge in massacres and the mass killing of human rights defenders.
According to both human rights organizations and leaders, some of the spies are paid to intimidate them while others complain the program puts them at increased risk of becoming the victim of arbitrary arrests.
Far-right president Ivan Duque and the security forces add to the terror by repeatedly claiming that their so-called “Citizens Participation Network” led to the arrest of members of illegal armed groups.
This puts entire communities at risk who suddenly become a suspect of being a government informant by illegal armed groups, which can have fatal consequences.
In 2019, at least 16 bodies of civilians found in Arauca had scrawled scraps of paper on them announcing the supposed “justification” for the killing. The texts accused the murdered victims of being “informants,” “rapists,” “drug dealers,” or “thieves,” for example.
Human Rights Watch
The convenience of a terrorized people
Duque, however, may be using the terror practice intentionally to silence any dissent against the allegedly illegitimate mafia puppet president.
One victims rights activist from Huila said that “people who are paid informants have been installed in rural communities” in order to intimidate them.
“We cannot denounce anything or they kill us,” Marta Aguirre said.
The recent mass arrest of 307 alleged kidnappers and extortionists of which only 25 were charged adds to concerns that the government’s far-right supporters are falsely reporting people who are subsequently arrested on bogus charges just to show results.
Enough is known about the irregularities within those cooperative networks promoted by [former President] Alvaro Uribe, such as the composition of these networks by paramilitaries and how they collaborated with the strategy of criminalizing and mass prosecuting… especially social movements, popular leaders and human rights defenders.
Fabricating evidence to justify terror campaigns
According to the Peace Observatory in Valle del Cauca, Duque created terror in Cali over non-existent riots during antigovernmental protests in November last year using either fabricated evidence or “asking people to send photos and videos of any act of vandalism through the participation network.”
Evidence indicated the president did the same in Bogota the next evening with the help of the National Police.
Retired National Army Colonel Alfonso Velasquez told newspaper El Tiempo last year that Duque’s constant propaganda about the program only attracts people who are seeking personal revenge, putting innocent people at risk of arbitrary detentions or political persecution.
Spreading the strategy, giving it so much publicity, makes it easier for people with not the best intentions to enter. Sometimes, seeking to obtain benefits, they invent information or use this mechanism for their personal revenge. These matters must be handled discreetly.
Retired National Army Colonel Alfonso Velasquez
Copy-paste from Uribe’s terrorist playbook
The retired colonel’s claim appears to be confirmed by the National Police, which said it received more than 87,000 reports from the informants in the first quarter of 2020 of which more than 93% were false.
According to the National Police, the president hoped 4 million people would sign up for the informant network.
A government database, however, indicates that only 2.6 million people signed up as the president’s base has been shrinking, particularly in the Caribbean region where Duque is even less popular than in the rest of the country.
Everything indicated that the government’s informant’s network is only adding to terror imposed by illegal armed groups and the police.