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Colombian senator cites Xenu, ‘the Hole,’ in wild televised hearing about Scientology scandal

[Senator Ivan Cepeda and Defense Minister Guillermo Botero squared off]

Our man in Bogotá, a local Colombian journalist who prefers that we not name him, sent us this wild dispatch about what happened yesterday in that country’s Congress regarding the swirling scandal involving the Church of Scientology. We can only dream that something like this was happening in the halls of power up here…

Yesterday the Colombian Senate’s Second Commission, focused on defense and national security, called the recently appointed Minister of Defense, Guillermo Botero, and the commanders of the nation’s armed forces to answer questions about their relationship with Scientology.

It’s the first hearing faced by the new Colombian government of President Iván Duque, who took office on August 7, and it’s a consequence of the scandal that has been keeping the attention of the country since photos of retired national police General Carlos Ramiro Mena in Barbados pinning a medal on Scientology leader David Miscavige became a national news story. In the last three weeks, more photos and videos have been dug up by newspapers, TV networks, and radio stations, showing how Scientology front groups Youth for Human Rights and The Way to Happiness have been promoted inside the military.

The hearing was organized by Senators Iván Cepeda, one of Colombia’s most important left-wing politicians, Feliciano Valencia, a leader of indigenous communities, and Antonio Sanguino, chairman of the Green Party.

Senator Cepeda began his remarks by saying that the relationship between the Colombian Army and Police and the Church of Scientology violates the country’s constitution, which says that Colombia is a secular state, and that it threatens national security. Then, he gave a colorful and detailed history of Scientology, including Xenu, L. Ron Hubbard’s past as a science fiction writer, the rejection of Dianetics by the American Psychiatric Association, the OT levels, the cost of auditing in Colombia (about US$ 1,000 per session, according to Cepeda), and a biography of Miscavige that included SPs, the Fair Game policy, ‘the Hole’ and more details well known to readers of the Underground Bunker — and all of it broadcast live to the nation. And Cepeda said the gravest threat Scientology poses is how it blackmails members using the information given in auditing sessions.


Cepeda played video of the speeches given by military officers in the opening of the Bogotá Ideal Org (which I covered three years ago for the Bunker) and of the event in Barbados. The senator expressed his indignation at the relationship between the Armed Forces and Scientology, with the church acting as if the Armed Forces were entirely penetrated. Cepeda cited Scientology’s use of spies around the world, and asked Minister Botero if Scientology was controlling segments of Colombian Armed Forces, and becoming a threat to national security.

Sen. Valencia focused on the possible impact of Scientology on Colombia’s indigenous population and asked if public funds were used to promote Scientology, after El Tiempo (Colombia’s biggest newspaper) revealed that military helicopters were used to transport materials and Scientologists like Sandra and Felipe Poveda. Sen. Sanguino pointed out that the Director of the National Police, General Jorge Nieto, didn’t attend the hearing and he claimed, based on the information given by Scientology media, that the relationship between the Church and Armed Forces “has become structural.” He cited how Andrés López (a Colombian comedian who promotes The Way to Happiness wearing a Sea Org uniform in many organizations and companies in Latin America) has been giving free stand-up comedy shows based on The Way to Happiness to the Armed Forces since 2004; he referred to declarations by retired Colonel Ricardo Prado that with The Way to Happiness booklets he held back a (non-existent) 100,000-strong march to the presidential palace and reduced the violence in Barranquilla Carnival. He also asked about how General Mena and Colonel Prado met Scientology’s Guillermo Smythe in 2008.

After those opening addresses by the lawmakers, Minister Botero gave a statement, saying that the police and Youth for Human Rights had an agreement to educate policemen and women in human rights, and that it wasn’t paid for with public funds. However, he stated also that part of the contract included the use of Armed Forces logistics (helicopters, transportation, conference halls). Then, he praised The Way to Happiness, stating how it gave a basic understanding of human rights. In my opinion, Minister Botero showed a lack of knowledge of Scientology. For example, he said that he didn’t know about the connection of Andrés López and Scientology (a well-known fact since the comedian dedicated his first stand-up show to Hubbard); he didn’t know about the Sea Org; and he stayed in the basic facts shown in The Way to Happiness. But he made a big announcement: the agreement with Scientology will not be renewed but the contract will be respected until it finishes.

Regarding human rights education, Botero said that a reason why Youth for Human Rights was chosen was its free cost for Colombian government and “naivete” from the Armed Forces. But he also claimed that Scientology exaggerated its influence in the Armed Forces in order to have more prestige among Scientologists: the importance of events were exaggerated, commemorative coins that meant nothing in the honors system of Colombian military were presented as important medals, and few military officers were subject to the programs, despite what Scientology claimed. He also said that the printing of The Way to Happiness booklets was stopped by Gen. Nieto. Finally, he said that Gen. Mena’s use of the uniform after his retirement was a violation of the law and that he would be judged by the Attorney General.

After the minister gave his statement, the remaining members of the Commission responded. The reactions by right-wing senators like Paola Holguín (one of the most important senators of the government party, the Democratic Centre) and José Luis Pérez (centre-right senator) showed that there is a cross-bench opposition to Scientology. Senator Pérez told a story about a Colombian woman who was subject to forced labor, low food, and kidnapping after she was taken to the Mexico Org. Once she escaped from there, she was prosecuted by the Sea Org and by law firms affiliated to the Church. He stated also that neither Air Force nor Navy were influenced by Scientology. Sen. Holguín stated that faith must be respected but, in line with a proposition by Sen. Ana Paola Agudelo (Christian right), wanted to keep a difference between personal acts of conscience and acts of service that involved the institution. However, the most powerful statement against Scientology came from right-wing senator Claudia Rodríguez de Castellanos, one of Colombia’s most powerful Evangelical leaders.

As one of the politicians behind the laws of freedom of religion, Rodríguez made clear that the Armed Forces must have religious freedom as individuals, but as an institution they can’t have a religious bias. Based on that idea, Sen. Rodríguez joined the call of the commission to investigate the allegations about the connections between Scientology and the Armed Forces. When the Minister heard the Commission members, his attitude changed. While he had initially praised The Way to Happiness, Botero now seemed alarmed and he reiterated that Youth for Human Rights would not be allowed to continue “teaching” human rights to the Armed Forces, an important topic in a country that has lived through violence, has been subject to human rights violations by all the combatants, and is permanently watched by human rights organizations.

But the news didn’t stop when the hearing finished. El Tiempo gave new information about Gen. Mena, who is suggesting that the Barbados photo is a scheme to incriminate him because he’s close to the Duque government and advises the government on security issues. And then La Luciérnaga, one of Colombia’s most important radio programs, claimed that Scientology supported anti-drug programs with the former Mayor of Bogotá. Based on that information, and what happened in the hearing, I would not be surprised if certain active members of the Colombian Armed Forces (Col. Anstrongh Polanía, Col. Alberto Sepúlveda, and Col. Wilson Ruiz, all of them mentioned in the hearing and in news related to the scandal) or retired (Col. Prado), or even the former Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas, are called to tell their version of events. Neither would I be surprised if Minister Botero, with more information and more knowledge of Scientology, begins a deeper investigation with the support of the Attorney General and the judicial power.

Regardless of the results, Scientology has received a big hit on its prestige in this country. Although some well-known entertainers are Scientologists, from musicians like Fruko to actresses like Ruddy Rodríguez, María Lara, and Valentina Rendón, as well as the 15-year campaign by Andrés López with The Way to Happiness in schools, universities, corporations, and government offices, this has been an opportunity to show the worst of Scientology to the Colombian public. Going Clear is available here through Netflix, Leah Remini’s show has been advertised in the streets and bus stops, and radio stations have interviewed Tony Ortega and Karen de la Carriere about Scientology and its history. A bigger investigation with stories closer to the country might deal a huge blow to a country where, according to Sen. Cepeda, over 4 million dollars was invested in the Bogotá Ideal Org.




Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 22, 2018 at 07:00

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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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