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LATIN AMERICA | 30-09-2019 18:36

Colombian intelligence leader quits after UN false document scandal

The head of the Colombian military intelligence resigned on Monday after President Iván Duque delivered a report from his office to the United Nations on the alleged presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela.

The head of the Colombian military intelligence resigned on Monday after President Iván Duque delivered a report containing false data from his office on the alleged presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela to the United Nations.

The documents contained at least two photos with false data. General Oswaldo Peña, who served as Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence of the Military Forces, presented his resignation to the Duque administration in which he "requested his retirement from active duty," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"I am aware of the need to answer for my actions and that of my subordinates, and I plan to act accordingly," said Peña, quoted in the newsletter.

The errors in the dossier delivered Thursday to the Secretary of the United Nations, António Guterres, provoked criticism of Duque by the Colombian opposition and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The 128-page dossier contains "reliable and hard evidence" on Venezuela's support for the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissents of the ex-guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), stated Duque. But at least two of the images in the document, the contents of which were not fully disclosed, had false data as corroborated by the AFP.

False data

The first image shows ELN guerrillas in the Venezuelan state of Táchira. Originally presented as being taken in April 2018, the image was first published in June 2015 by the newspaper El ColombianoEl Colombianoclaimed military intelligence presented the image as showing rebels in the Colombian department of Cauca.

Duque stated that the photograph is for "context" and "serves as an anecdote within the dossier."

The document further denounces a "massacre" in the Venezuelan state of Bolívar in October 2018 for "clashes" between the ELN and Venezuelan gang members. The message is illustrated with a photo of a cabin that has graffiti with the acronym ELN, yet the image was taken in Colombia's Catatumbo region, bordering Venezuela, by AFP photographer Luis Robayo. 

Two other AFP images, also taken in Colombia, were released without giving credit. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence apologised Friday with the AFP for the improper use of the Catatumbo image and for not recognizing authorship in the others.

Colombia, alongside the United States, leads the international pressure for Maduro to leave office and for opponent Juan Guaidó to take office. Guaidó is recognised as interim president of Venezuela by over 50 countries worldwide. 

The verbal escalation increased in recent weeks, after Bogotá intensified its allegations that Maduro is protecting Colombian guerrillas. In response, Maduro, who called Duque an "imbecile" for handing over false data, ordered military exercises and the deployment of a missile system in the 2,219 km bordering area.

– AFP

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