Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Scientology’s Colombia strategy becomes clear: It’s total war

[Colombian senators Iván Cepeda and Antonio Sanguino]

Always attack, never defend. That’s the motto that L. Ron Hubbard instilled in Scientology before he left for other parts of the galaxy, and it’s a rallying cry that current leader David Miscavige has always taken to heart.

And in Colombia, he is definitely on the attack.

A month ago, the Colombian media began a feeding frenzy over what it considered a juicy scandal: On June 23 in Barbados, to cap this year’s “Maiden Voyage” celebration of Scientology’s private cruise ship the Freewinds, Miscavige had himself pinned with a medal by a retired Colombian national police general, Carlos Ramiro Mena. For years, we’ve watched and rolled our eyes as Miscavige has used the Colombian police forces and military as props in his public relations schemes to impress wealthy donors. But having himself pinned with a medal was so over the top, Miscavige’s dockside display became an obsession for the Colombian media.

For weeks they’ve asked why some of Colombia’s top military men were bowing and scraping to Miscavige, and why they were passing out Scientology propaganda booklets by the millions to soldiers and civilians alike.

Those questions were taken up by two federal senators, Iván Cepeda of the left wing Alternative Democratic Pole party and Antonio Sanguino of the more centrist Green Party. They and several other senators (from all parts of the political spectrum) grilled Defense Minister Guillermo Botero on August 21 about Scientology’s influence in the Colombian military, and they demanded a full investigation.


And how has Miscavige responded? With both barrels, just as you’d expect.

Over the weekend, the Colombian media reported that an attorney representing Scientology, Paola Andrea Gonzáles Corredor, filed a formal complaint with the congressional Ethics Commission (Comisión de Ética y Estatuto del Congresista), asking that it investigate Cepeda and Sanguino for their statements about Scientology in the August 21 hearing.

Incredibly, the Ethics Commission did just that, notifying the senators that it had opened an investigation and had handed it to far-right Senator Carlos Felipe Mejía of the Centro Democrático party, which is part of the coalition currently in power. Sanguino said Mejía was “openly hostile” to the opposition parties that he and Cepeda are a part of, and they planned to file a writ to have Mejía recused from the investigation this week.

In television interviews, Cepeda and Sanguino appeared not to be too concerned about the probe, saying that Article 185 of the national constitution gives senators immunity over their personal views.

Still, it’s kind of amazing what Scientology can get done as long as it calls itself a “church.”

As for Cepeda being unrattled, former Scientologist Adrian Vanegas wanted us to understand something about the senator and his stature in the country.

I wanted to contextualize Senator Cepeda. I like him. He is tough. In 2014 he called for a debate on former two-term president (2002-2010) Álvaro Uribe, who is currently a senator. Uribe is a Richard Nixon/Henry Kissinger/Dick Cheney type of guy. Senator Cepeda did a congressional “presentation” where he exposed all of Uribe’s crimes, deep ties to the paramilitary, massacres, drug trafficking. In turn Uribe placed a complaint on Cepeda in the Supreme Court. He accused Cepeda of bribing jailed former paramilitary heads to implicate Uribe with crimes. Since then the Supreme Court launched an investigation. It ended in February when they said Cepeda was innocent. Uribe was actually found guilty of bribing those criminals to implicate Cepeda with crimes. An investigation was launched and has President Uribe in a seriously precarious legal position. Because of this, extreme right wingers consider Cepeda a guerrilla member (even though he is civilian, a senator). Cepeda’s father was a senator and was killed by the Colombian dark forces of the army while driving to work.

In other words, Cepeda went toe to toe with the most powerful man in Colombia, and the Supreme Court stated he acted within the boundaries of the law. David Miscavige pales in comparison is my point. Uribe is supposedly responsible for the extrajudicial killing of three to ten thousand innocent civilians by the military. Scientology claims they helped the military on human rights. But Scientologists love Uribe.

Going after the senators wasn’t Miscavige’s only bold move as he had the Freewinds sail into Cartagena’s harbor yesterday, despite the scandal going on there. It arrived in the morning, but despite being tipped off that the ship was coming, Colombia’s press hasn’t reacted, as far as we can tell so far.

Last night, evidence that the ship was in port was posted by Richard Gamboa Ben-Eleazar, the Scientologist “rabbi” who shills for Scientology in Latin America. He posted this about midnight, noting that the ship was in Colombia again…


Meanwhile, in what appears to be a completely unrelated circumstance that should nonetheless concern David Miscavige, a prominent and wealthy Colombian Scientologist, Stella Durán, 74, made news last week when she and 15 others were arrested in a large-scale year-and-a-half investigation of her business network, which sells weight-loss products the government says were not properly inspected. She’s facing charges that could put her in prison for 17 years.

“With seven beauty centers in Bogotá, she is one of the most recognized women in the capital,” said one news report about her arrest. The investigation found that Durán was selling health products that had not been properly inspected, and that records were falsified to cover it up and officials were bribed to look the other way.

What the Colombian press reports didn’t mention, however, was Durán’s longtime involvement in Scientology.

“She was arrested just after she returned from Flag after attesting to OT 7,” says our Bogotá correspondent.


(Stella Durán and her daughter Vanessa Navarro on their recent Florida trip. Navarro is known as the “Queen of the Telemarketers” in Colombia, where she is a familiar face pitching products on television. She was not among the 15 people arrested with her mother.)

One Colombian news article reported that when she was arrested, Durán insisted that police allow her to keep her earrings on to keep up her image as she was taken to court to be arraigned.

With such a prominent Bogotá figure facing serious prison time for fraud, we can’t help seeing a parallel with a similar situation happening back here in the U.S. Is it time, finally, for the OTs to get their comeuppance? Will the Colombian press get back on the Scientology story while the Freewinds is in Cartagena? Will Durán’s prosecution be seen in light of that unfolding scandal? And will Scientology’s “Fair Game” tactics become even uglier for the senators looking for answers about Miscavige and his influence?

Sure, we have plenty of questions. And we’ll keep pestering our contacts in South America for more answers.




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


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,228 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,831 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 374 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 262 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,437 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,211 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,985 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,331 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,897 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,565 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,825 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,865 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,577 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,103 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,192 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,332 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,652 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,508 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,627 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 983 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,285 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,391 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,794 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,665 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,248 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,753 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,997 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,106 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 5, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email