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Colombia: Human rights defender Mr Gonzalo Guillén threatened and falsely accused of having links with FARC
Human rights defender and journalist Mr Gonzalo Guillén has been falsely accused by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of having links with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Gonzalo Guillén is an independent journalist, former correspondent with El Nuevo Herald of Miami, and is currently an adviser for El Universo newspaper of Guayaquil (Ecuador) and President of the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad – Colombia (Colombia section of the Press and Society Institute). He has been long-involved in investigating and documenting crimes allegedly carried out by members of the Colombian armed forces, and has had to leave Colombia on a number of occasions for extended periods as a result of threats he has received.
On 27 June 2011, Gonzalo Guillén presented a film in Ecuador called Operación Jaque: Un jugada no tan perfecta (Operation Jaque: not such a perfect game) which documents a military operation which culminated in the release of 15 FARC hostages in July 2008. The documentary reports that negotiations were allegedly held between the Colombian Government and two FARC Commanders, who were offered large sums of money in return for the release of 15 hostages, including French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, who was held by the FARC for over six years, three American contractors, and 11 agents of the Colombian security forces.
Gonzalo Guillén spent over two-and-a-half years making the documentary, which includes interviews with French diplomats, as well as Colombian and North American lawyers who were allegedly involved in negotiations regarding the transfer of a large sum of money from the Colombian Government to the FARC. The Colombian President who held office at the time of the alleged military and financial operation was Mr Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
On 29 June 2011, Gonzalo Guillén received two phone calls during which reference was made to the documentary and he was threatened and insulted. On 28 June 2011, following the screening of the aforementioned documentary, Prosecutor General Viviane Morales announced that she will begin an investigation on the alleged financial operation orchestrated by President Uribe.
The same day, Colombian President Juan Manual Santos issued a public statement in response to the documentary, stating that those who accused the Colombian Government of paying large sums of money to members of the FARC in return for the release of hostages were “useful idiots” who were feeding into FARC propaganda. Following the Presidential statement, further comments have been reported in the media from former Commanders of the Colombian Armed Forces, as well as former President Uribe, denying that any negotiation took place and accusing Gonzalo Guillén of trying to make a mockery of the military forces.
On 27 May 2011, intruders broke into the home of Gonzalo Guillén and stole valuable paperwork and documentation related to the aforementioned military and financial operation. It is reported that in recent months Gonzalo Guillén has received threats from persons who identified themselves as officers of the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS (Administrative Department for Security). To date no investigation has been carried out into the break-in and robbery.
Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Gonzalo Guillén considering the unfounded public statement issued by Colombian President Juan Manual Santos linking him to the FARC. Further concern is expressed regarding reported threats issued against Gonzalo Guillén by members of the DAS, as well as the break-in at the human rights defender's home, particularly taking into account that documents of a sensitive nature were stolen. It is believed that should the content of these documents be widely circulated or made public, it may place Gonzalo Guillén in a situation of even greater risk.