SEMANA/Corruption | 1/23/2009 12:00:00 AM
Betrayal of the Colombian Intelligence Agency
The flight of the EPL guerrilla head responsible for the worst massacre of intelligence agents is just one of the irregularities surrounding the investigation.
The facts surrounding the massacre of Hacarí have a component that could be more macabre than Escobar’s terrorist attack: the specter of treason. Since the massacre occurred, there is a suspicion that has now been transformed into a certainty, that some officials within or outside of the institution could have betrayed the DAS. The most recent evidence of this happened last July when DAS personnel captured “Megateo” and allowed him to escape.
SEMANA learned that during the last days of July 2008, members of the DAS arrested “Megateo” and his bodyguard. Over four months ago the then DAS director, María del Pilar Hurtado, confirmed the escape to this magazine but requested that information surrounding the case not be revealed, and that soon there would be results. About the way they allowed “Megateo” to escape there are two “official” versions in which irregularities are obvious. The first, told to SEMANA by DAS officials, says that when he was transported in a DAS vehicle from an area near Ocaña towards Cúcuta, the guerrilla jumped out of the vehicle and fled in the underbrush. In accordance with that version, none of the two detectives who were going with them could follow him, nor shoot at him because of “bad luck” as the guns simultaneously jammed.
The other “official” version is equally as unprecedented. According to what members of that institution told SEMANA, after being captured by DAS members, “Megateo” was handcuffed and, together with his bodyguard, was transported in the back of a DAS vehicle. At some point along the way between Ocaña and Cúcuta, the bodyguard of the subversive realized that the back door of the truck was open and, taking advantage of the detectives’ carelessness , pushed “Megateo” out of the vehicle so that he could flee.
According to that version, the detectives only became aware that “Megateo” had escaped when he arrived at the capital of Norte de Santander. The matter becomes even more complicated. SEMANA learned from DAS sources in that department that although the bodyguard arrived at DAS headquarters, two days later he disappeared from there.
The unlikely “official” versions about the escape have two things in common that are equally serious. The first is that they let one of the most pursued guerillas escape. The second is that, in both versions, they are investigating the handing over of a large amount of money in exchange to allow for the escape of the guerrilla. The flight of “Megateo” has many DAS officials who have been pursuing him for more than two years up in arms. Although part of their unease is based on the fact of being betrayed by their own men, there is also indignation because, according to DAS sources, the internal investigations about the facts surrounding the escape have advanced rapidly, but they have encountered big obstacles, as the investigators in the Fiscalía who also are part of the case have not acted with diligence, which has hindered captures among other things.
Although the DAS did not publicly reveal “Megateo’s” strange escape, that episode is not the only one in which there is a specter of betrayal.
At the end of 2005, during the new administration of Andrés Peñate, “Megateo” was one of the DAS’ targets. As head of the Librado Mora Toro Front of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) guerrilla group, he controlled most of the drug business in the Cataumbo area in the Norte de Santander department. Allied with the FARC and former paramilitary factions, he was the master of a strategic area. He used his great power in order to penetrate and corrupt the majority of the government institutions in that area. In addition he had the support of a large part of the population.
Peñate was determined in arresting him and after months of planning, launched an operation to capture him. What the DAS director did not know was that the guerrilla knew all the details of the plan. “Megateo” even knew that the detectives and military officials who were traveling behind him were in a bulletproof truck. That is why the explosive cargo with which he dynamited the vehicle was more powerful than usual. Once the massacre occurred, the investigations started to reveal that “Megateo” had possibly been alerted by insiders.
Initial investigations identified two suspects. One of them is a DAS detective, whose name SEMANA is refraining from revealing in order not to hinder the investigations. In accordance with DAS investigators, there is suspicion that that official leaked to the guerrilla about the operation against him. “Although there was, and is, sufficient proof to link that official, the actions of the investigators of that case haven’t produced definitive results,” a DAS investigator told SEMANA.
The other suspicions fall on an active colonel of the Army. As part of the massacre investigations, the DAS, with the authorization of the Fiscalía, the prosecutor general’s office, made hundreds of telephone interceptions. Some that most drew the attention of the officials, and that SEMANA had access to, are the hundreds of hours of conversations between an Army colonel and an EPL guerrilla who worked with “Megateo.” The official (identity withheld), was one of the dismissed military officials late last year because of the false positives scandal in Ocaña. In the recordings, he has compromising conversations with the EPL guerrilla.
Although Army and DAS sources say that those conversations were part of an intelligence gathering operation to capture “Megateo,” other DAS members who had access to those recordings acknowledged having serious reservations about the military’s actions. To begin with, it is not usual that a high official like a colonel would be in communication with a guerrilla of such low profile. That is a work that is more common for non-commissioned officers, captains , and majors. The content of the conversations in which the colonel offers to move troops in order to facilitate the criminal activity of the guerrilla is also noteworthy.
The case of the Hacarí massacre continues to have many serious unresolved questions. One of the few things that investigators know for sure today is that there was treason that resulted in the death of ten detectives and seven professional soldiers- and that the person responsible for the blood bath, “Megateo,” fled in an incredible way six months ago from the DAS. In the meantime, the DAS and the Fiscalia are playing the blame game. They seem to be more concerned about accusing the other for their inefficiency than seeking and capturing the truly guilty. It is a sad spectacle for the family members of the 17 Colombians who were cowardly assassinated on April 21, 2006.