Interview: Private Agent Mauss
Breaks His Silence
Focus 28/98 06.07.1998
“Someone to hate”
Agent couple Werner and Ida Mauss on mental torture, dangerous peace missions, headlines and the fear of death in prison
FOCUS: Werner Mauss – has always been a man of mystery, the most secret of agents, “man without a face”. Now, after 30 years of secrecy, comes the first interview. How do you feel about that?
Mauss: My feelings are really only my wife’s business.
FOCUS: You were separated for nine months. How did each of you cope with prison in Colombia?
Ida Mauss: The first days in an officer’s room in police custody were the worst. We could hear the screaming and moans of prisoners who were being tortured.
FOCUS: Were you also tortured?
Ida Mauss: Not physically, but mentally. Of all days, on Christmas Eve, we found ourselves facing a 60-year prison sentence – because of alleged complicity with the guerrillas.
FOCUS: What became of all these accusations?
Werner Mauss: The Colombian Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General ruled in various judgements that our detention had been illegal and that we had never at any time violated Colombian law. We were engaged in a humanitarian mission that was recognised by the court after all.
FOCUS: What was hardest to bear?
Ida Mauss: To be innocent and locked up in that pigsty, knowing that our three children were waiting for us at home.
FOCUS: Mauss caught in trap, was a typical headline.
Werner Mauss: The wrong sort of headlines made the detention longer and conditions worse. I was in fear of my life.
FOCUS: Who were you afraid of?
Mauss: Of hired killers from paramilitary groups who are against any reconciliation in the conflict. Every night I was expecting them to hang me in my cell and then sell the story of my desperate suicide to the media.
FOCUS: Despite these experiences you are continuing your involvement with the peace process. Why?
Mauss: I’m not used to leaving jobs unfinished. Nine months in prison won’t change that.
FOCUS: Is the agent whose cover has been blown now going to become the peace campaigner?
Mauss: I don’t need to create a new image for myself. My wife and I possess the know-how to help further this necessary peace process.
FOCUS: Why you?
Mauss: Because we love this country and its people. Evidently no one but us is willing or able to go into the conflict zones and risk their lives to negotiate with the guerrillas in their central camps.
FOCUS: At the end of June you brought six ELN guerrilla leaders secretly to Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz for a meeting with the Colombian National Peace Council. How did you manage that from a security point of view?
Mauss: The details of the operation are a professional secret.
FOCUS: The ELN members have a high price on their heads. How does one go about smuggling such a group from South America to Mainz?
Mauss: I can tell you it involved several planes and a round-the-world operation. But that’s beside the point. All that matters is that the two sides finally came together under the auspices of the German Bishops’ Conference after 40 years of civil war and thousands of lives lost.
FOCUS: Having been heavily criticised because of its link with you in the past, the Chancellor’s Office in Bonn apparently does not want to know about your latest operation.
Mauss: Why do you say that?
FOCUS: Government spokesman Otto Hauser made it very clear last week that you have no government mandate.
Mauss: I have the mandate of the parties in the conflict. All decisions taken by the Catholic Church were agreed with the Bonn government.
FOCUS: Why then is the government so pointedly maintaining its distance?
Mauss: Because they don’t want this sensitive process endangered by election campaign rhetoric.
FOCUS: Who are the pussyfooters?
Mauss: The attitude of the government can change at any time. In any case, Colombia’s President Samper has asked for Bonn’s help in the peace process.
FOCUS: Nevertheless, agent Mauss will remain a controversial figure.
Mauss: None of the malicious scheming against me over the past 30 years has ever managed to stop me. In fact, its had quite the contrary effect. The scheming has just made my wife and I stronger.
FOCUS: Do you have a wish for revenge? Against the British security company which allegedly reported you to the police, for example?
Mauss: I don’t harbour any craving for revenge against anyone. I am just surprised by how easy it was for a private company to manipulate a substantial section of the media.
FOCUS: Why is so much punishment being meted out to Mauss?
Mauss: Because some of the media simply need a bogeyman to hike up sales. They need to have someone they can attack, someone to hate.
Secretly to bishop
ELN leader Pablo Beltran on the Mainz talks
FOCUS: The Colombian military has put a high price on your head. Why did you come to Mainz?
Beltran: Because it’s only here that we can talk safely about a peace agreement.
FOCUS: What has Bishop Lehmann been able to do for you?
Beltran: He has spoken with the Pope about our wishes.
FOCUS: Your hopes?
Beltran: That the next meeting with the Colombian National Peace Council on July 12th will bring results.
FOCUS: What are you offering?
Beltran: A ceasefire. In return we want an undertaking that the terror of the death squads will be investigated.