She Took On Colombia’s Soda Business. Then She Was Silenced.

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An RCN lawyer demanded she delete the put up, claiming it was mental property theft. She complied, however the community filed a criticism with federal prosecutors who, in flip, opened a felony investigation. The case, nonetheless pending, carries a attainable advantageous of $300,000.

“In the event that they win,” she mentioned. “I can be financially ruined.”

It was round this time that workers at Educar’s workplaces started to complain about echoes and different voices on their cellphones. They suspected they is perhaps beneath surveillance. Others discovered it arduous to make use of the web within the workplace. In October, Dr. Cerón’s workplace cellphone ceased functioning solely. “Typically we couldn’t work in any respect as a result of our laptops would cease following orders and the mouse would simply do what it wished,” Diana Vivas, the group’s lawyer, mentioned.

Ms. Lane of Bloomberg Philanthropies was so involved that she stopped utilizing e-mail and the cellphone to debate technique with Educar. As a substitute, she moved communications to a number of the similar encrypted apps used after the surveillance of soda-tax advocates was found in Mexico.

Known as in to analyze, Andrés Erazo, Educar’s longtime tech marketing consultant, mentioned he found that antivirus software program on office computer systems had been disabled. He additionally discovered adware on the workplace router that gave an unknown outsider entry to the group’s net site visitors and on-line communication. In keeping with Mr. Erazo, three cellphones — together with these utilized by Dr. Cerón and Ms. Vivas — had been compromised by adware.

Mr. Erazo urged Dr. Cerón to purchase new cellphones however she refused. “In the event that they’re listening to us, what are they going to listen to?” he recalled her telling him. “We’re speaking a couple of public well being marketing campaign!”

An impartial examination of Educar’s computer systems performed for The New York Instances by CSIETE, an web safety agency in Bogotá, didn’t flip up any malware. Giovanni Cruz Forero, the agency’s chief govt, mentioned Educar workers had reformated one of many two workplace laptops the agency examined, which might have largely erased proof of tampering. Mr. Cruz mentioned it was additionally attainable intruders took steps to erase their digital footprints. The agency didn’t look at cellphones of Educar workers.

One early morning in mid-November, Dr. Cerón was startled awake at 5 a.m. by a name to her cellphone.

“Shut up you previous wench,” the caller yelled, in accordance with a report she filed with the Fiscal Normal de la Nación, Colombia’s prosecutorial company.

In early December, Dr. Cerón was strolling to the gymnasium when a person, his face obscured by a hooded sweatshirt, accosted her with the identical message. “Cállese,” he yelled earlier than strolling away, or, “hold your mouth shut.”

She reported each episodes to prosecutors.

A spokesman for the prosecutorial company declined to touch upon Dr. Céron’s complaints, citing privateness guidelines that bar dialogue of instances with anybody indirectly concerned.

Dr. Cerón stopped driving alone. And he or she pressed the native information media to cowl the intimidation, nevertheless it was going through its personal challenges from tax opponents.

Pressuring the Media

With its cordon of armed guards, bomb-sniffing canines and airport-style X-ray machines, the headquarters of Colombia’s oldest newspaper, El Espectador, is among the many most fortified compounds within the nation. The necessity for such measures is pushed dwelling by a sixth-floor show: showcased behind glass is a yellowing entrance web page reporting the assassination of El Espectador’s editor, Guillermo Cano, who was gunned down on Dec. 17, 1986, as he drove dwelling from work.

Three years later, an enormous truck bomb shattered the newspaper’s workplaces, killing a reporter and wounding 83 others. Through the 1980s and 1990s, violence claimed the lives of a dozen El Espectador workers — all victims of Colombian drug cartels angered by the newspaper’s unflinching protection.

El Espectador information editors mentioned they sought to cowl the soda tax battle evenhandedly within the information pages, even because the paper supported the tax in its editorials.

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