The name of the operation refers to the traditional command stick used by the generals, the group from which the investigation began, which exposed the “bad apples” of the institution.
Links with drug trafficking, complicity with the elimination of social leaders, electronic espionage, profiling of left-wing opponents, negotiated in the purchase of arms, protection of illegal mining, sale of arms and safe-conducts to paramilitary and irregular groups are some of the accusations that Operation Bastón reveals about the Colombian army.
The investigation originated after the Colombian request to belong to the North Atlantic Organization (NATO) at its suggestion, and sought to standardize the transparency standards of its armed forces with those of the European defense group.
The counterintelligence operation uncovered numerous acts of corruption involving 16 senior generals and 266 Army officers and NCOs, and 35 civilians.
The leak of the results of the investigation by Colombian journalists generated shock in public opinion and an appeal to the Senate by the Minister of Defense, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, by Iván Cepeda, Gustavo Bolívar and Antonio Sanguino.
Senator Iván Cepeda defined the report as a “horrifying panorama” within the Colombian Army. It demonstrates, he said, the existence of “a solid, corrupt far-right bloc, closely linked to drug trafficking in the national army.” He stressed that systematic assassinations of social leaders have occurred in areas where generals are linked to the Gulf Clan and other criminal organizations.
Con @AntonioSanguino y @GustavoBolivar, como seguimiento al debate sobre la Operación Bastón y aparato de inteligencia ilegal del Ejército, remitimos las siguientes cartas a instancias internacionales:
1. Carta a congresistas de EEUU.
2. Carta a la CPI.
3. Carta a la OTAN. pic.twitter.com/Vg4kEJzErd
— Iván Cepeda Castro (@IvanCepedaCast) May 22, 2020
He denounced that it seeks to cast a blanket of silence on the investigation, limiting that “upon the arrival of General Nicasio Martínez (there was) a sweep of the investigations and those who carried out these operations were transferred to other dependencies of the Army.” He also questioned the intention, by the military prosecution, to link people from the institution by leaking the results of the Operation as well as the journalists who spread it.
For Gustavo Bolívar, from Alianza Verde, the reported events “correspond to a network of entrenched criminal structures with a far-right apparatus”, denying that their dissemination is intended to be a debate on the Armed Forces.
Un general vendía información a la Guerrilla, otro vendía armas y salvoconductos a la Oficina de Envigado, otro a las Bacrim, otros se roban el presupuesto.
Cuando los cuestionamos, senadoras uribistas gritaban energúmenas: apátridas, resentidos, respeten nuestras fuerzas armadas pic.twitter.com/WOpoowIMaG
— Gustavo Bolívar (@GustavoBolivar) May 17, 2020
He also denounced that an underground confrontation was taking place within the armed institution between the high command for contracts for airplanes and anti-aircraft batteries, soon to be awarded for a cost of more than 1,000 million dollars.
Regarding the “profiles” by Army intelligence officers, in which he appears, Senator Antonio Sanguino, made it clear that this is a “common practice” that not only violates fundamental rights, but also, where appropriate, what links with people you don’t know. This situation, he argues, gives him great concern for his safety, in the face of continuous threats from extreme right-wing groups such as the Black Eagles that have already threatened him with death on other occasions.
On his side, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, before the senators’ statements, denied that there was a cover-up in the reported cases, limiting that by legal provision, the Attorney General’s Office cannot disclose the names of the people investigated , nor the state of the process that, he assured, is in the process of investigation.
He stressed that, on the alleged links of the Armed Forces with drug trafficking, they are being investigated, limiting that these are individual cases, so it is not possible to speak of a structure within the Army.