Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia President scraps spy agency after scandals

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia
Image caption President Juan Manuel Santos had vowed to scrap the spy agency

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has officially dissolved the country's intelligence agency, the DAS, after a series of scandals.

Mr Santos said most DAS staff were being transferred to other government departments.

The organisation has been mired in controversy for years.

Last month its former head, Jorge Noguera, was sentenced to jail for 25 years for collaborating with paramilitary death squads.

Noguera led the Administrative Security Department (DAS) from 2002 to 2005, under former President Alvaro Uribe.

He was found guilty of allowing right-wing paramilitaries to infiltrate the service, and helping them to murder an academic activist.

The scandal broke in February 2009 after a magazine revealed the illegal spying on opponents of Mr Uribe. At least 20 current and former DAS officials have been jailed.

On Monday, current DAS director Felipe Munoz said 92% of agency employees would retain government jobs.

Mr Santos said: "A lot of people in the DAS have been stigmatised, unjustly I would say. So many law-abiding people shouldn't pay for a few sinners."

Paramilitary groups have been blamed for some of the worst atrocities in Colombia's long civil conflict.

They were formed during the 1980s to fight left-wing rebels, but - like their guerrilla enemies - have also been heavily involved in the cocaine trade.

Mr Uribe made the demobilisation of the main paramilitary group - the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) - one of the cornerstones of his security policy, along with taking tough action against the left-wing guerrillas.

But members of his administration, as well as the Colombian army, have been accused of collaborating with paramilitaries.

The DAS answers only to the president, but Mr Uribe has repeatedly denied issuing any orders that violated the law or the constitution.

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