Friday, April 15, 2011

Operación Diablo (Devil's Operation)

Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

Operación Diablo (directed by Stephanie Boyd) is a Peruvian (Spanish language, English subtitled) documentary that recently played at the 2011 Chicago Latino Film Festival regarding a discovery made by activists protesting operations at the Yanacocha gold mines in Peru operated by the Colorado based Newmont Mining Corporation.

Led by Father Marcos Arana, peasants had successfully blocked expansion of the mine in 2004 only to find that soon afterwards, leading activists, including Father Marcos were being tailed and videotaped by goons. Tired of this, Fr. Marcos chased down one of these spies with his car, called in authorities and discovered that a private intelligence firm named Forza had been hired (presumably by the Newmont Mining Co.) to follow and report on the activities of Fr. Marcos and the other activists. The sophistication of the operation, including minute to minute logs of the waking hour movements of the surveilled people along with pictures and charts stunned the authorities.  The matter was widely reported in the Peruvian press.

Forza had apparently been made up of former intelligence officers from the Fujimori era in Peru, left unemployed after Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was forced to resign in 2000 and was later jailed for corruption and human rights abuses. Forza was implicated in the torture and killing of activists protesting at another gold mine in another part of Peru. The tactics used by Forza on sequestered protesters there were reminiscent of those made infamous at Abu Gharib in Iraq.

Forza therefore becomes a Peruvian example of a growing worldwide phenomenon of the emergence of private intelligence-security firms like the American firm Blackwater (now known as Xe Services) the full ramifications of their emergence not yet fully understood.

Operación Diablo takes its name for the "code name" of "Diablo" (Devil) given to Fr. Marcos by agents of Forza in their operation of him and his colleagues. I found the movie to be both interesting and disconcerting.

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