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Colombian Chief Who Implicated Uribe Aides Said Police “Do Not Act” in Paramilitary Zone

December 13, 2010

Colombian National Police chief Oscar Naranjo (Photo:

Turns out the Colombian police chief who implicated two of former president Uribe’s top aides in an illegal domestic surveillance program has a (declassified) history of frank disclosures to the U.S. Embassy.

In one of the most talked about Wikileaks revelations on Colombia so far, a redacted source identified as National Police chief Oscar Naranjo shared with the Embassy his “hypothesis” that two of President Álvaro Uribe’s top advisers were behind an illegal surveillance program being run by the country’s top intelligence organization, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS).  The Watergate-style domestic spying program targeted journalists, judges, human rights workers, and members of the political opposition.

Naranjo had “a pretty good track record for success,” according to U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield’s account of the October 2009 meeting, and was “perhaps the smartest, best informed member of the [Government of Colombia],” and someone whose “views and observations are usually worth serious consideration.”

Naranjo’s track record of candid statements goes back to at least December 1996 when he admitted to U.S. Embassy officials that Colombian police forces “do not act” in areas under the control of illegal paramilitary groups—many of which were thought to have ties to Colombian security forces.

When asked why the [Government of Colombia] has not arrested Carlos Castaño when he has openly admitted to kidnapping guerrilla relatives … Naranjo noted somewhat sheepishly, the police “do not act” in the part of Urabá under Castaño’s control.

Castaño was one of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary commanders.

The cable was obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, with additional portions—including the section quoted above—released by the State Department’s Appeals Review Panel.

Former ambassador to Colombia Myles Frechette, who ran the U.S. Embassy during one of the lowest points in U.S.-Colombia relations from 1994-1997, recently told El Espectador that Naranjo was an “honorable person” and a “great patriot.”  The National Police were one of the few Colombian institutions trusted by the U.S. during that time.

Although his name was redacted from the document, the French newspaper Le Monde convincingly identified Naranjo as the source based on a separate cable, also revealed by Wikileaks, in which Naranjo’s name was mistakenly left in one of the section headings.

One of the Uribe advisers named by Naranjo, Bernardo Moreno, has been administratively sanctioned for ordering the wiretaps, while the other remains under investigation.

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