Pubdate: Fri, 14 Nov 2003
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Marion Lloyd
Bookmark: (Colombia)


MEXICO CITY -- One of Mexico's leading specialists on drug trafficking
was detained and interrogated by Colombian police last week while
returning here from an academic conference in Bogota, the professor
and diplomatic sources said.

Luis Astorga, a sociologist and author of three books on drug
trafficking in the region, had boarded his return flight to Mexico on
Nov. 3 when agents from Colombia's Administrative Security Department
forced him to disembark, he said.

During a three-hour interrogation, the agents rifled through his
luggage and wallet before confiscating a Colombian army report on the
alleged links between the country's most powerful guerrilla group, the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and Mexican drug traffickers,
he said.

The agents claimed the document was classified. But Astorga said it
had been given to him by a colleague at the congress on drug
trafficking, sponsored by Colombia's National Museum, and that it had
already been widely circulated outside the country.

"They made me look like some kind of a James Bond, as if these
documents weren't already public," said Astorga, who was awarded a
grant from both governments to pursue his research of the links
between Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers and the guerrillas,
known as the FARC. He said he now worries that he could be detained
again when he returns to Colombia.

He apparently has reason to be concerned. Indhira Guzman, the
Colombian army researcher who gave Astorga the document, later
reported receiving death threats for her role in providing the

"I am afraid, and more so when they call and remind me that I have a
daughter," Guzman wrote in an e-mail to Astorga on Saturday. She
hinted that the threats were coming from inside the Colombian armed
forces, saying "you know what institution I'm talking about, and to
challenge someone there is to ask for problems."

Astorga asked the Mexican ambassador in Colombia to write a letter of
protest, but had not received a response. "Without official support, I
am totally vulnerable," he said.

A spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Bogota said he knew of Astorga's
detention, but could not say whether his government would protest it.

Officials at the Colombian Embassy in Mexico City, meanwhile, said
they were aware of the incident but could not immediately comment.
However, Elvira Cuervo de Jaramillo, the director of Colombia's
National Museum, sent an angry letter to the head of the Colombian
security agency protesting the detention. "It is imperative that these
types of incidents do not repeat themselves," she wrote, "and that the
state security organizations are more selective . . . in determining
who is suspicious and who is not."

Astorga speculated that his detention might be related to accusations
made in July by Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, Luis Ignacio Guzman,
that the FARC was operating support groups on campus at the National
Autonomous University of Mexico, where Astorga teaches. Mexican
officials vehemently denied the charges and the Colombian government
issued a statement distancing itself from its ambassador's remarks.

But tensions remain. Astorga said the agents might have been trying to
scare other academics away from probing too deeply into Colombia's
security problems, as the government struggles with a 40-year civil

"It was carefully orchestrated theater, to create an impact," he said,
describing how the agents waited until the last moment to storm the
plane and escort him off. "They treated me like a drug suspect."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin