The errors contained in a report on Venezuela that Iván Duque presented to the United Nations last week have cost Colombia the head of intelligence and military counterintelligence. Oswaldo Peña Bermeo, director of that joint command, requested his withdrawal from active duty by letter on Monday. “As general of the Republic, I am aware of the need to answer for my actions and that of my subordinates, and I act accordingly,” reads a communication addressed to the president. He handed over to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, a dossier on the links between Chavism, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and other illegal groups that operate on the border. However, at least four of the photographs presented as evidence of that relationship did not correspond to the neighboring country. Three of them belong to the France Presse Agency (AFP).
The first denial came as a result of the denunciation of a Medellín newspaper, The Colombian. One of the images, which shows a group of children playing in a circle with some guerrillas and intended to illustrate the recruitment of minors in Venezuelan territory, actually dated back to 2013 and was delivered to the newspaper by the military intelligence services in 2015. According to the information provided to the journalist, it was taken in the Colombian department of Cauca, near the Pacific coast. However, the snapshot was included in the report, of almost 130 pages, under the title Penetration of the ELN in rural schools of the Táchira State for indoctrination purposes – April 2018. The Duke himself explained that the source of the photo is the Venezuelan NGO Fundaredes, which published it in a 2018 report, and as such the credit was attributed.
The president tried to minimize the matter in a statement in Miami. “Why is it there? Because it’s a context photo. And the dossier it has both context photographs and photographs of Colombian intelligence, “he said. Even so, he said he was not in a position to ensure that it was an image of Venezuela:” The foundation from which the photograph derived was Contextually included in the report. It is important that it be clarified. But beyond the photo I think is anecdotal within the dossier, what it is really showing with information is the location of the (ELN) leaders in Venezuela. ”RELATED
The next day they transcended new mistakes. Three other photographs were in the AFP archives and also had nothing to do with Venezuela, which motivated the apologies of the Ministry of Defense to the agency’s address in the region. After criticism of the Government and Iván Duque, who gave the face and highlighted the importance of the report on the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, this episode closes with the resignation of the head of military intelligence. The name of the Oswaldo Peña substitute is not yet known. Defense and the General Command of the Armed Forces say they will announce it “soon.”
However, for the Executive and his allies these errors do not disrupt the substance of the dossier. That is to say, that the border situation represents an obvious threat to the peace and stability of the region that does not admit discussion. The Donald Trump Administration reported that it “fully supports the conclusions” and the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, applauded “the efforts of the Government.” In addition, this Monday, while the general delivered his resignation, the Government redoubled its complaints. And despite the denials, “the dossier he continues with a reserved character, ”said Defense Minister Guillermo Botero early in the morning in a busy appearance before the press at the Superior School of War, where he was accompanied by the chancellor, the attorney general, the military commanders and the police director. Botero, however, made no reference to the impending departure of the intelligence chief. “You cannot divert attention from the main to the accessory,” said Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, although he clarified that the dossier It will be updated with the exclusive use of photos of the armed forces.
All the appearing parties insisted, for the umpteenth time, on the evidence that Venezuela has become a “sanctuary” for Colombian illegal armed groups and that the ELN, in particular, maintains a rearguard on the other side of the border, protected by the Chavista government. The members of the last active guerrilla in Colombia find medical attention, have bank accounts and properties, do tourism, train and plan attacks from Venezuelan territory, they said. To support their accusations they exhibited, among others, several photos in which three ELN leaders pose in public places in Maracaibo, Valencia and Caracas, taken from seized electronic devices. The images date back to the years 2011, 2015 and 2018. They also showed a video and several images in which armed people, allegedly involved in drug trafficking, count money in the State of Zulia.
General Luis Fernando Navarro, general commander of the military forces, said that Colombian intelligence has been able to establish that Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias Pablito, one of the most sought-after members of the ELN dome, is located in the State of Apure, protected by several security rings, 35 kilometers from the Colombian border and one kilometer from a Venezuelan National Guard base.
“These links have been denounced for years,” said Foreign Minister Trujillo, who referred to the work of organizations such as Insight Crime and International Crisis Group, as well as the pronouncements of the Lima Group – of which Bogotá is a part – and the Venezuelan National Assembly itself , dominated by the opposition. The Colombian diplomacy chief said they were going to “continue denouncing those links, at the instruction of President Duque” soon before the UN and the European Union, as they did before the Organization of American States (OAS).