BOGOTA, Colombia — The bespectacled man who keeps popping up in Colombian television footage might be comical if the case didn’t involve a possible plot to assassinate the president.
The bizarre case surfaced Monday when a Colombian television station aired footage of a May ceremony at Bogota’s National Museum at which Colombian President Andres Pastrana and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were seated together at a table.
Helping to push in Chavez’s chair and then standing behind the two leaders during the ceremony was a thin, nerdy man with glasses and a dark, rumpled suit. His presence, apparently as part of the security detail, raised no suspicions at the time.
But on closer inspection, the man behind the presidents is the same man Colombia’s secret service presented to the media earlier this month as an alleged guerrilla deserter who revealed an assassination plot against a Colombian presidential candidate, Alvaro Uribe.
Colombian and Venezuelan authorities have been unable to explain how this man, identified as Diego Serna, a former seminary student turned rebel, wound up being next to the two heads of state. Members of the Colombian congress have summoned the interior minister and the head of the secret service agency to a closed-door session next week to demand answers.
Since the story broke, the secret service has released additional excerpts from its original questioning of Serna about the alleged plot against Uribe. In the video, Serna claims that during Chavez’s May visit, he was part of a rebel assassination plot to kill Pastrana.
On Friday, another television station broadcast footage of a younger Serna wearing a cowboy hat and jeans and standing in the background at a 1990 ceremony at which another rebel group, the M-19, laid down its arms under a peace agreement.
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