Ex-Prez Security Chief Arrested in Spying Scandal

September 19, 2008

GUATEMALA CITY President Alvaro Colom ordered army units to take control of his office and home while the court ordered the arrest of the ex-head of presidential security after evidence was found last week that the president had been the victim of espionage.

Colom told a press conference that seven voice recorders and two hidden cameras were found inside the presidential residence and other similar objects were discovered in his private office.

We found seven recording devices and two hidden cameras inside the presidential residence, two similar objects in my private office in Zone 14, on the south side of the capital, as well as several of these devices in the office of the first lady, Colom told reporters.

Immediately following the scandal, Carlos Quintanilla, head of security for the president, vice president and their families, resigned from office.

Prosecutors then asked for an arrest warrant for him a week later.

The spy devices were discovered by members of Colom s closest security staff, a group of former leftist guerrillas who have protected him for more than 10 years.

Weeks earlier, Colom had said he was the  target of telephone espionage by peopleinterested in damaging his administration. He said then that he would launch a thorough investigation into the alleged spying.

Before Colom made his comments to reporters, army units moved to take control of the presidential residence and of the National Palace of Culture the former presidential palace and a building where official ceremonies are typically held and cordoned off both buildings, which are located in the capital s historical center.

The unusual movement of military vehicles at a time when thousands of people were making their way through that part of the city sparked fear among the population, many of whom can recall military coups in the 1970s and 1980s.

Beginning today, I m declaring war on all those who are listening in on calls, on all private intelligence services that are not legal, Colom said.

The left-leaning Colom, who describes his government as socialism with a Mayan face, ended more than 50 years of conservative rule when he took office in January.

 

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