EL UNIVERSAL, September 18, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
That’s what the ex-Director of the DAS in Casanare, Orlando Rivas Tovar, had to say in a hearing before the JEP.
This last Monday night in Yopal (Casanare Department), members of the Colombian Army, a former detective in the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), and two civilian recruiters, appearing before the JEP, admitted responsibility for their participation in nearly 300 “false positives”.
One of the most telling testimonies was that of ex-Director of the DAS in Casanare, Orlando Rivas Tovar. He related what the role of the now-abolished agency was in military operations and in carrying out the administration’s policy of democratic security in the region between 2005 and 2007.
According to Rivas, when he held the position of Director, he was “part of an organized criminal apparatus that had been created in the 16th Brigade. Its objective was to obtain operational results, especially “supposed kills in combat at any cost.”
The ex-Director pointed out, “I want to admit my responsibility for the actions in which officials under my supervision in the Casanare section of the DAS, assigned detectives, and Colombian Army troops murdered, “a whole list of people whose families were present at the hearing for the admission of responsibility as called together by the JEP.
“Because of my actions and my omissions that I am admitting today, the Casanare section was immersed in a large number of actions and conduct that I recognize today was utterly without any logic,” said the former detective, who added that the agency policy of the DAS “depended on, and was carrying out direct orders from, the office of the President of Colombia.”
Rivas stated that while he was the Director, he put methodologies and alignments into practice that sought to take the place of the functions of the judicial police, something that, although the DAS was part of the executive branch, implied receiving direct orders from the Presidential Palace.
The Director Generals of the agency, at the time, “issued orders to the sectional Directors of the DAS to coordinate and to participate and to cooperate intimately with the Armed Forces in maintaining public order throughout the countryside.” That collaboration had the effect of stigmatizing the population as part of making use of “all of the resources of the DAS.”
The result of that whole strategy was the creation of “a false idea that the fight against subversives was really providing operational results” by means of the murder and forced disappearance of humble citizens.
What was the role of the DAS?
Specifically, the strategy of stigmatization was started by Rivas, who, according to him, had a “plan that couldn’t fail” consisting of deploying undercover agents to move into areas where the actors in the conflict were present.
Once living in the countryside, they carried out “undercover intelligence” by going around in camouflage and carrying weapons and demanding to examine people’s identity papers. With hidden video cameras, they registered the identification of people and created “general censuses” trying to create profiles.
The information on the citizens was put into secret reports that were later compared with statements made by people who had demobilized from armed groups. The members of the DAS went to meetings in the offices that were attending to the demobilized people and interviewed the ones who were in the process of re-incorporation.
The demobilized fighters, says Rivas, “would accuse just about anybody,” with statements like, “that guy brought me something from the market,” “that guy was laughing with the commander”, and other things. That information also went into the secret reports that were sent to then-Director, Orlando Rivas Tovar himself.
The DAS later issued arrest warrants for people living in the community. Since there wasn’t any kind of functioning legal system, the citizens walked free, but still with a record of having been arrested.
“I was a part of the stigmatization,” said Rivas, who begged pardon of the victims, of Justice Óscar Parra and Justice Catalina Rivas of the JEP, and of public opinion. The Special Jurisdiction will hold an admission hearing this Monday and Tuesday for 21 former members of the military, for ex-detective Rivas Tovar and the two civilians who were recruiters.