Para collaboration scandal shakes Colombian secret police

Jorge Noguera, the head of Colombia’s Administrative Security Department (DAS) announced his resignation Oct. 25, inviting authorities to investigate accusations against him in the national press that he had cololaborated with illegal paramilitary groups. Noguera told reporters he was innocent of accusations made by DAS employees he had met with paramilitary leaders and oversaw a department in which charges against accused drug smugglers were mysteriously erased. “I ask the authorities to investigate these accusations. My conscience is clean,” Noguera said. Also Oct. 254, Uribe fired DAS subdirector José Miguel Narvaez. (Reuters, Oct. 25)

The Bogota daily El Tiempo reported that DAS officers were secretly taped while discussing alleged plans by a close aide to Noguera to sell intelligence data to paramilitary leaders. The newspaper claimed that Narvaez asked for the recording to be made to ensnare his boss in the scandal, revealing deep divisions within the agency. Narvaez also denied any wrongdoing. The vice-minister of defence, Andres Penate, has taken over the DAS while the government investigates the allegations. The DAS has been hit by a string of scandals recently, including alleged misappropriation of funds. A regional chief in northwest Colombia has also been accused of fabricating a plot to assassinate President Alvaro Uribe in order to take credit for foiling the attack. (BBC, Oct. 26)

The DAS internal affairs unit and the attorney general’s office are investigating whether the Special Intelligence Group, controlled by Enrique Ariza, a close ally of Noguera, had been planning to sell phone-tapping equipment to Javier Montañes, a powerful paramilitary commander, who could then use the system to monitor police and military activity.

The allegations come following a string of revelations of paramilitary influence in everything from local governments and the health care system to provincial lotteries. A former DAS official, Rafael García, is under investigation for having erased computerized case files containing information on paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

Though the paramilitaries have officially demobilized thousands of fighters, they continue to carry out bloody attacks. On Oct. 23, Hernando Cadavid, who owned a flower plantation next to President Uribe’s ranch in northern Colombia, was dragged from his farmhouse and hacked to death with machetes by “former” paramilitaries. Investigators are trying to determine if the order came from Diego Fernando Murillo, a paramilitary boss recently imprisoned on Uribe’s orders. (NYT, Oct. 28)

See our last report on para terror in Colombia.