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All the ex-president’s men

BOGOTA, Colombia — The ex-president’s men — and some of his women — are starting to fall from grace.

Colombia’s inspector general has sanctioned three former high-ranking government officials for their roles in a domestic spy scandal that stained the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, who stepped down in August after eight years in office.

Bernardo Moreno, who was Uribe’s chief-of-staff, was barred from serving in public office for 18 years by Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez. Maria del Pilar Hurtado and Jorge Noguera, two former directors of the DAS, Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency which is at the center of the scandal, received similar sanctions.

Noguera is already in prison for his alleged role in collaborating with right-wing death squads to murder union activists.

Described by some analysts as worse than Watergate, the DAS scandal involved the spying on Supreme Court justices, journalists, opposition politicians and human rights activists. Uribe has denied any involvement but several agents said their orders came directly from the presidential palace.

The sanctions come at an embarrassing moment for Uribe. Besides teaching seminars at Georgetown University, he is jumping back into Colombian politics and may run for mayor of Bogota next year.

Yet the spying revelations as well as several other serious scandals that erupted during his last four years in office could lead to more sanctions, convictions and prison time for members of Uribe’s inner circle.

“Not even a child would believe that DAS agents, acting on their own, would decide for no particular reason, to wiretap Supreme Court justices,” wrote columnist Salud Hernandez in the Bogota daily El Tiempo. “They were following orders. ... That’s why in the search for the guilty, the place to look is in Uribe's presidential palace.”