Tuesday, May 28, 2024

LATIN AMERICA | 23-08-2022 12:02

Colombia's president names ex-guerrilla as intel chief

President Gustavo Petro has made Manuel Alberto Casanova, who like Petro was once a member of the M-19 urban guerrilla movement, the intelligence chief of Colombia.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has named a former guerrilla comrade as the conflict-wracked South American country's intelligence chief, according to an official decree published Monday.

Manuel Alberto Casanova, who like Petro was a member of the long-disbanded M-19 urban guerrilla movement, becomes the first civilian to hold the position as general manager of the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI).

The radical leftist M-19 was active between 1974 and 1990, when it signed a peace deal with the government and became a political party.

Casanova took on the role of head of security for the new party, the M-19 Democratic Alliance.

An almost unknown on the political landscape, Casanova was in charge of spying and financing in the M-19 guerrilla group, local press say.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Casanova has a degree in philosophy and also studied public administration. He has worked as a consultant on social projects and most recently worked for a coffee exporting company.

The DNI reports directly to the president and oversees all intelligence operations. It was created in 2011 to replace the scandal-tainted Administrative Security Department (DAS).

"It's worrying. (Casanova) is someone with no experience in intelligence management," Jose Vicente Carreño, a legislator for the right-wing opposition Democratic Centre party, told W Radio.

He said it would "demotivate the public security forces."

For the pro-government senator and human rights activist Gloria Florez, the appointment shows a clear change of direction.

"In the old DAS we were the victims of an infamous persecution, of set-ups for which several people are still in prison. What we want is to give a different direction to state intelligence," she told W Radio.

The latest appointment follows a complete overhaul of the military and police chiefs since Petro's election in June as his country's first ever left-wing president, something which has caused suspicion within the ranks of the security forces.

Around 30 army generals and police chiefs have left their posts.

Petro, who has said he wants to break from the old policy of an "enemy within" that has underscored six decades of internal conflict, wants to transform the security forces.

He has said he wants from them "the reduction of violence and criminality, and a substantial increase in respect for human rights and public liberties."


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