Intelligence sharing with Venezuela leaves Colombia vulnerable to spying, ex-president says
Former Colombian President Ivan Duque warned on Friday that his successor’s decision to share intelligence information with Venezuela leaves his country vulnerable to espionage from Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime, and could damage the longstanding cooperation between U.S. and Colombian agencies.
Speaking at a forum on Venezuela held in Washington by the Wilson Center, Duque said Venezuela continues to pose the greatest single security threat to the region and warned against diplomatic efforts to “whitewash” the Caracas regime despite its long record of human-rights violations and its support of terrorist and criminal groups.
Without naming his successor, current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Duque said the decision to share intelligence information with the neighboring country will boost the espionage capacity inside his country of hated Venezuelan agencies, such as the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, SEBIN, and the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence.
“I feel as something that is a threat to Colombia’s security... The interaction of intelligence information between SEBIN and other units with the DNI (National Directorate for Intelligence) in Colombia is opening the possibility for SEBIN to do espionage not only on political leaders, and members of the core system, but also on journalists in our country,” Duque said.
Similar interactions between Venezuela with other nations in the region is facilitating efforts by the Maduro regime to “use espionage technologies, similar to the Pegasus type of instruments, to start monitoring regime opponents in other Latin American countries,” he said.
Pegasus is spyware that can be covertly installed on mobile phones and other devices.
After reestablishing a diplomatic relationship with the Maduro regime, Petro announced in November that his country would begin sharing information with Venezuelan intelligence services to combat criminal gangs on the border between both nations.
But Duque said intelligence sharing is used by Maduro for other purposes.
“The Maduro regime is using this as a way to fracture the historical relationship in intelligence findings with the United States. They want to be able to gather how the intelligence cooperation system works and that represents not only a threat to Colombia’s national security but to the whole hemisphere,” he said.
Duque, who during his presidency frequently criticized the Venezuelan regime for its destruction of the neighboring country’s economy and democratic rule, said that one of its most pernicious effects has been the emergence of a series of copycat regimes throughout Latin America, which have followed the oppressive formula established in Venezuela.
“Nicaragua is the number one copycat,” he said, adding that the Central American country is fully engaged in the “destruction of liberties, the persecution of the opposition, the closing of media outlets, the closing of universities, and threatening the church and anyone that is capable of saying anything that is negative to the brutal exercise of authoritarianism.”
Other countries, including Bolivia, are closely following the example set by Caracas, a phenomenon that is jeopardizing democratic rule throughout the region. He added that is one of the reasons why current efforts to try to engage with the Venezuelan regime are a huge mistake.
“I am very worried about the whitewashing diplomacy that is taking place,” he said, claiming that it would only give legitimacy to a system and leaders systematically involved in crimes against humanity.
He also spoke against allowing Venezuela to renew its sales of oil to the United States.
“Allowing Venezuela to sell its oil back to the United States and other countries is not just a way of legitimizing Maduro,” but a way of condoning crimes against humanity, he said. “Those barrels are not just having an environmental footprint, they are barrels that are combined with the blood of many Venezuelans. Every barrel of oil that is bought from Venezuela is a barrel of oil that is contaminated by the most prodigious number of human rights violations.”