The DAS Incident(s)

Posted on 26. Mar, 2012 by in colombia

Some readers may know, but most won’t because I’ve never mentioned on this blog the Colombia Reports story about me being called into the DAS. DAS was the Colombian equivalent of the American FBI before being dissolved last year due to various corruption scandals.

I never wrote about it because I didn’t want to provoke Colombian authorities. I’m a writer, nothing more. I don’t sell drugs. I don’t coerce women or deal with underage girls. I write what I see in the streets of Bogota, nothing more. I don’t want problems with authorities. I’m just a writer.

After being called into DAS, I called my personal friend, who happens to be the managing editor of Colombia Reports. I called Adriaan to vent and to ask his opinion. He’s a more experienced gringo publisher in Colombia, with a lot of government contacts and experience. It was a friendly conversation. He told me not to worry and to keep him updated.

Just a few weeks later, reporter Brian Andrews wrote to CR why he left the country in fear of a FARC kidnapping. Adriaan was compelled to write about Andrews and my DAS incident in the context of censorship in Colombia. I did NOT want him to write about my ordeal. He asked my permission before publishing. I stalled, but it was true and Adriaan’s a buddy so I agreed. He also convinced me by saying the authorities don’t want to give me any extra readers / press. So if I write about every time they call me in, they’ll surely stop bothering me. It made sense when he said it, but I don’t believe it anymore 🙂

So the story’s been told, but here are the details plus the other incidents.

In June 2011 (almost a year ago) I received a phone call. Leonardo claimed to be with DAS, and he wanted to know why I wasn’t at our meeting the day prior. What meeting? He asked me to come into the office so we could clarify my visa situation. I had lived in Bogota over two years by then, and they’d never called me in before. I’d never even heard of  a gringo being called in.

I wouldn’t have been nervous, but my first Colombian Reports controversy had just happened. This site had just gotten a lot of new attention in Colombia. So I was nervous. I told Leonardo that I didn’t have time for this. He replied that he worked for DAS, and that if he told me I had to come in, then by law I had to come in. Although nervous, I did have a visa issue. I’d recently been fired and entered the country on a tourist visa after attending a wedding in the US.

After the phone call, I went home and found a letter from DAS asking me to see “Detective” Leonardo. It arrived at my house the day after the date of the appointment. See that letter.

For the appointment I wore a shirt and tie. I arrived ten minutes early. Going through security, they told me my guy was on an upper floor (I’d previously only known the first and second floors). On that floor there were no waiting room or other foreigners. Agents walked around with guns on their hips. I found a receptionist and mentioned the Detective I was to meet with. She told me he’d just stepped out.

I waited for twenty minutes or so. I told the receptionist I had an appointment, which I did. I left my phone number and split. I headed south on Carrera 11, stressed that I hadn’t finished this. A few blocks down, I received a phone call from the receptionist. My detective had just arrived and wanted me to come back. I turned around.

Detective Leonardo was clean-cut, young, and most importantly, friendly. He told me he had some questions about my visa and employment in Colombia. I sat down at his desk and the questioning started. I was doing my best to look like a straight-laced professional.

When he asked why I wasn’t with the English institute, I told him they fired me because I wouldn’t work full time. This was a lie. I didn’t want to tell him I was fired because of this site. He asked if I had the institute director’s number. He dialed it up, walking away from the desk and out of earshot for the conversation, which did nothing to calm my nerves. He came back and said the director mentioned some website. I played dumb and we moved on.

After asking all the possible questions he could about the institute – what I’m doing now, my visa – Detective Leonardo threw a packet of papers, at least 50 deep, in front of me. The first page was a printout of Gringos Who Don’t Know How to Act in Colombia, my most recent story at the time and the cause of the first CR controversy. He told me to translate it to him. Imagine my discomfort translating the first paragraphs of that article to an officer of the law…

Fortunately he took mercy and quickly cut me off. He said the website is why he called me in. What’s the deal with this?

I told him I’m a writer. I write about what I see in the street. I told him that while all the stories on the front page at this moment are bad, that’s not all I write about. I told him I’ve written about fruit in Colombia, chiguiro, social issues like limpiezas, tourist dangers like scopolamine, and economics. I don’t only write sleaze.

Detective Leonardo noted all my comments, in addition to my answers to the visa and employment questions, on an official statement. I signed the statement and it was placed in my file. In the statement I was identified as “Colin Post, Interpol # xxxxx …” I don’t know if everybody has an Interpol number, but I know I do.

In leaving, I asked the detective if there was a problem with my writing. I certainly don’t want any problems. He was clear in emphasizing it’s legal, “Es su derecho.” But he said I should be careful with some of these subjects, especially when writing in the first person. We shook hands and said a friendly goodbye.

The Other DAS Incidents

A couple weeks later, Detective Leonardo called me in again. This time, I told Adriaan Alsema I was going in and that if I didn’t call him within two hours, then I was in jail. I wanted somebody to know where I was. I took all my documents with me.

My paranoia was unnecessary. Detective Leonardo wanted to know what I was going to do. He called me in to ask what my plans were. I told him I was going to continue looking for work, and if I didn’t find any by the time my tourist visa expired, then I’d leave. I was out in just a few minutes that time, and I called Adriaan to confirm I wasn’t in jail. A week later Adriaan asked permission to write about my DAS incident.

I have a gringo buddy who plays golf with a DAS guy and some other funcionarios. The gringo told me my name and website came up in conversation one day. They don’t know the gringo and I are friends. The DAS guy in particular hates my site, and me. My buddy acted like he didn’t know me.

Since meeting Detective Leonardo the first time, I’ve been nervous and paranoid every time at the DAS building. Every time is a shirt-and-tie affair, and an air of straight-laced professional. When walking Calle 100, I cut down Cl 99 out of my way so I don’t have to pass the front of the building.

My next DAS trip came just before my tourist visa needed renewing because I didn’t have a job. I used to bring a book and read while waiting. After all this I’m too paranoid to read. Instead I constantly scan all the DAS agents’ faces, trying to see if they give away something in their expression. Do they recognize me? Are they talking about me? I never had any indication that they knew who I was. Then my turn came up at the information desk to see what I need to renew a tourist visa. The guy who works this line is a little older, quite friendly, and speaks English. We spoke Spanish as he gave me the requirements. Then he switched to English: “Don’t worry, you’re home now … You’re well known here.” I thanked him and darted out. I wanted to chuckle because he was so friendly, and it was a friendly thing to say. A gringo told me that may be Colombian sarcasm: “You’re well known here.”

Censorship?

Adriaan’s op-ed got a lot of comments from people who hate me and this site. They argued DAS was right to call me in. Adriaan said governments shouldn’t persecute bloggers. What do I think?

I think both are right. Colombia has a hard past and it’s trying to become a beacon of safety and stability. If there’s a gringo writing what I write with questionable visa status, interviewing him is completely acceptable in my opinion. Adriaan’s also right in his point:

Colin, intimidated by this state interference, got the message. Since his visits to the DAS, Expat Chronicles has been about reggaeton, traffic jams, mullets and, surprise surprise, Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero.

Adriaan’s absolutely right that my content changed because of the DAS incident. However, I wouldn’t use the word “intimidated.” I would say that I wanted to DEMONSTRATE to the authorities that I can write about sterile subjects too. I don’t have to write about sex, drugs, and violence. I’m not a one-trick pony.

So both my critics and Adriaan are right in different ways, but they were both wrong too. Critics suggested there was something illegal in what I do. There isn’t, and Detective Leonardo confirmed that. Adriaan’s article suggests that my sensational content would disappear, but it hasn’t. While I do G-rated articles, this will never be a G-rated blog. See some articles I’ve published since the DAS incidents:

Then again, I certainly toned down Economics of a Bogota Drug Dealer. I was originally going to call it “How to Sell Cocaine in Colombia,” and I delayed it almost a year till things cooled down. Dopeman was willing to pose in a ski mask holding a pistol over his inventory. In light of all that’s happened, not so much …

I started meeting with lawyers as my case in obtaining visas may now need help. One guy was hell-bent on going after the DAS because I didn’t have a lawyer present, I wasn’t given a copy of my statement, etc. I said NO, NO, NO, I do NOT want to start trouble with the government, but thanks for your time!

I went to Peru when my tourist visa ran out, and returned to Bogota in January. As usual now, I was nervous seeing DAS at the airport. Although it technically wasn’t DAS anymore, but I was still nervous. The new signs read “Migración Colombia” – nothing else. A young, handsome guy examined my passport. I tried to charm him. We shared a laugh. He was friendlier than I could’ve ever imagined, even calling me “parce” as we said goodbye. Nice fella.

I’m very interested in Colombian opinions. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

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14 Responses to “The DAS Incident(s)”

  1. matthew b

    26. Mar, 2012

    Damn, this is the first I’m hearing about this but I can’t say I’m surprised. When I first read the one about sex with underage girls I remember thinking “there’s not way this can be good”.

    Then when I read about the deported colombians setting up shop in bogota I really started wondering “damn this isn’t the kind of stuff you tell the whole world about”. I was wondering if any of the deported cats would worry that you maybe were bringing any heat down on them with your articles. Because if they weren’t already on the dea radar I’d bet they are now.

    Be careful down there dude. Shit can get real quick if you know what I mean.

  2. Colin

    26. Mar, 2012

    Matthew – it’s legal for Colombians to have sex with girls as young as 14. Still, not something they want the whole world knowing and reading about.

    And the VAST MAJORITY of deported Colombians, while they get buck wild on the weekends, work legal gigs.

    Still, you’re right in that the gov’t doesn’t want to see A LOT of what I write published in English. If you ask me though, if you sweep it under the rug then nothing will change.

  3. Jim

    26. Mar, 2012

    Colombia in particular, and Latin America in general is another planet. People know it’s different, they can see and feel it everywhere, but I don’t think they realize how different.

    People in the English-speaking world prize themselves on their “free speech”. We have little government control of what we say, but an elaborate system of social and political etiquette that controls the discourse. This is at root an English Protestant thing, that possibly applies in Holland where Adriaan is from I believe- the Puritans spent time there- but obviously not in Colombia. In the Anglosphere if you say the wrong thing you get boycotted, in Colombia maybe you get a bullet.

  4. Jim

    26. Mar, 2012

    Having read “Gringos Who Don’t Know How to Behave” if I was a Colombian I wouldn’t want to have you around either. I would say the rule in America is that drugs and prostitution are tightly controlled, and people can talk about them, but not admit to participating. (Except marijuana.) In Colombia these things are tolerated, and respectable people can do them, as long as it is kept quiet. You can talk about doing these things because you’re a foreigner and not subject to the same social censure, so you’re violating two taboos- talking about it publicly and coming from a country where different rules apply to enjoy it, at the expense of Colombians.

  5. Thane Eichenauer

    27. Mar, 2012

  6. Samuel

    27. Mar, 2012

    I do remember this stuff going down, and I did note the toned-down demeanor of the posts after the DAS attention. I had hoped this would not occur, but I can’t blame you. I have had some heat on me, and regardless of how things SHOULD be, a man of the streets knows when he needs to watch his ass. Just good common sense.

    I have very much desired to see more of the kinds of posts that this site started with, partly because I can relate so well, and because their entertainment value made this the best blog on Colombia that I had ever found. Good, bold writing, cutting through the bullshit.

    But just as the seasons change, so do these sorts of things. I’d still love to see a compilation of stories about the Mick. Seriously man, you could upload that to Amazon and then put a link here on your site for people to buy it. Its a good way to monetize your site and create a little more cash flow. I’d spend $2.99 anytime for that, especially as a newcomer. When I first found this site, I went back and read every damn post you had. Of course this might prompt you to write a little more dangerously too, in order to generate controversy / interest / sales.

    Anyway, I’d have been shitting bricks, taking the DAS heat like that. You can be the biggest bad-ass you want, but jail ain’t no joke. I’ve been there.

    Speaking of that, I owe you an email, sir.

    Tell me (us)… what does this year look like for you? Will you be spending the bulk of it in Peru, or Bogota, or??

  7. Carlito

    27. Mar, 2012

    Well Colin, the funny thing is this: yes It’s legal to have sex with minors older than 14 yo (age of consent I think is called) BUT they’re still considered minors until 18 yo. What does it means? It means that if the beautiful 16 yo girl repents from that great night you just gave her and sues… you go to jail OR if her parents find out and sue you… you’re also going to jail because they speak for the kid until 18 yo. Funny isnt it?

    About your DAS incident, in Colombia we have a free speech directive (it’s in the Consitution) but in real life not so… ask SoHo magazine and the problem they had for a picture that depicted The Last Supper, nude provocative version… unfortunately institutions with power like the Church or a newspaper can try to censorship you and often they can win, but for that to happen a lot of political power is needed i.e. someone with power hates you.
    On the other hand if a real threat of censorship tries to erupt, you will receive a lot of attention and gain a lot more of readers. Anyway, you can’t go to jail for your opinions and writings but go for insult and slander and a community can try to sue you because they feel insulted by your writings but they have to demonstrate that they are untruthful so I wouldn’t worry that much. (I’m not a lawyer so take my writing with a hint of skepticism)

  8. Rawley

    30. Mar, 2012

    I just want to know why you would ever use your real name? etc.ts not like using a pen name would discredit you …many many good writers do so. Please explain that to us.

  9. Colin

    30. Mar, 2012

    Jim – exactly right. Everything I talk about is out in the open, but they don’t want it pulished, especially in English!

    Carlito – I think you’re 100% right that I pissed off somebody with power. You’re the only Colombian to weigh in thus far, thank you!

    Rawley – I have an article coming soon on why I’m not anonymous.

  10. Vasilios

    04. Apr, 2012

    I remember that article by Adriaan is when I first got turned on to your blog. I have been hooked ever since and constantly check for new articles/stories. By no means would I term ANY of the stories as sleaze, but as real and informative. Keep up the good work.

  11. Mike Hunt

    15. Apr, 2012

    I like mondongo.

  12. Anna

    15. May, 2012

    DAS is absolutely right about calling you in. You are not a writer but a junkie and all you have written about Bogotá and Colombia are total lies. Being Colombian I know exactly what I am talking about and I know that drugs do not flow like rivers on the street. If you are looking for them obviously you will find them. just like in the US, and that is all you do. You only go around looking for drugs and prostitutes. Call me a hater if you want, your own description of yourself in this blog says it all.

  13. Jay

    05. Aug, 2012

    I’m coming to bogota next month. I live in Chicago and have very much been enjoying reading your blog. You might get this a lot and be completely non interested but I would like to know if you would like to meet up? Because my friend and I would definitely be up for it. Do you have a way of contact less public? My email is on this comment thing.

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