Bogota – An article in The Washington Post asserting that aid the United States gave for a decade to Colombia to combat drug trafficking and guerrilla activity was used to spy on and defame judges and opposition groups has sparked a scandal in the Andean nation.
The report comes as Colombia's Congress is investigating illegal wiretapping and surveillance targeting magistrates, opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders during the 2002-2010 government of Alvaro Uribe.
Washington provided $6 billion in aid to Colombia over the course of those eight years.
"This is a new element for which the former president will have to respond before the U.S. Congress," Colombian lawmaker Ivan Cepeda, a victim of the wiretapping, told Caracol Radio.
"I personally will immediately take action so that U.S. legislators intervene in this matter," Cepeda added upon announcing that he will sue Uribe in the United States.
The front page story in Sunday's Washington Post, which cites as a source documents and former intelligence operatives, says the revelations "have implicated American aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling."
The head of Colombia's opposition Liberal Party, Rafael Pardo, said that the revelations "contribute a new actor" to the process of the wiretaps and illegal spying.
Pardo said that - whether the money came from the United States or not - this fact "doesn't make the debate more serious but it does make it more strained."
"It's very serious that the money of U.S. taxpayers is being used to destroy the prestige of judges, journalists and political opposition figures" in Colombia, Cepeda said.
He said Colombia's DAS security service used U.S. aid to buy "special equipment to intercept telephones ... (that) on the orders of the executive branch" were not used for the ends that had been scheduled.
Cepeda believes that the time is coming when Uribe "must begin to respond" to international authorities for the unlawful spying.
Uribe stands accused by an investigative committee of the lower house of criminal conspiracy to discredit the Supreme Court, abuse of power and intercepting communications.
Last Thursday, Uribe appeared before the committee for five hours.
Though the DAS reports directly to the office of the president, Uribe denies having ordered the illegal spying.