Just one day after its explosive interview with alleged Colombian peace talks hacker Andres Sepulveda hit news stands, Semana , the weekly magazine that has broken the scandal since last May, has posted new exclusive clips on its website pushing the latest implications even further.
Sunday’s article has already set the Colombian political sphere aflame, reigniting early fears of an apparent alliance between the Colombian political right and active elements of the military to derail ongoing and historic peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group.
President Juan Manuel Santos described the latest accusations as “scandalous” Monday and called for a full investigation to “get to the bottom” of the “criminal ring” responsilbe for allegedly funneling military intelligence and private communications to hardline political figures, including Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the runnerup in this summer’s presidential elections.
A few hours later, Semana released additional footage from its lengthy exclusive with Sepulveda, the imprisoned suspect in the scandal, revealing new depths to an already sprawling look at what Sepulveda himself has described as political warfare.
Fissures in the heart of the Democratic Center
In one particularly explosive segment, Sepulveda accuses the Zuluaga campaign of enlisting him to sabotage the aspirations of fellow right-wing political heavy Francisco “Pacho” Santos.
Santos, a cousin of the president, is a member of the Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party, of which Zuluaga is now director. Heading into the party’s nominating convention last fall, Santos, now an early candidate for the mayor of Bogota, was the consensus favorite to win the presidential nod.
Instead, Zuluaga emerged from the convention victorious, amid accusations that Uribe, the party’s founder and a key figure in the developing scandal, had rigged the voting in his preferred candidate’s favor.
Sepulveda did not join the Zuluaga campaign until several months after the nominating process, but his latest accusations — that former campaign Director Luis Alfonso Hoyos, who resigned when the initial revelations broke last May, and Zuluaga’s son, David, arranged for him to “hack” Santos — could lead to a split within the Democratic Center, now the largest opposition bloc in Congress.
“When I arrived on the campaign, they told me, ‘Our enemy is Pacho Santos,'” said Sepulveda, explaining that “Pacho Santos had done a lot of dirty campaigning against Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.”
“They gave me the instruction: ‘hack’ Pacho Santos, and the hacking was done and Luis Alfonso Hoyos and David Zuluaga read that information,” said Sepulveda.
“That was an order given by Luis Alfonso Hoyos. That wasn’t something I recommended,” he said. “No,” it was Hoyos who told him, according to Sepulveda, “We need to know what Pacho Santos is doing. How is he doing it?”
What did Zuluaga know
Despite Zuluaga’s claims to the contrary, Sepulveda believes that the presidential candidate himself had direct knowledge of the tactics being used by his campaign.
“For him not to have known what I was talking about would suprise me,” he said, referring to a video released during the campaign in which Sepulveda is shown briefing Zuluaga on military intelligence reports. Zuluaga, in the video, does not display any signs of surprise or question how Sepulveda obtained the information.
“He had plain knowledge of what I was talking about. It simply was part of a normal conversation between my office and the directors of the campaign,” he said.
“It was very normal to talk about that.”
Responding to the release of the bulk of the interview, Zuluaga had called Sepulveda’s claims “absolutely false,” saying his campaign did not so much as “receive information illegaly,” much less instruct Sepulveda to obtain it.
Adressing his critics
Sepulveda went on to address claims previously made and since echoed by Uribe that Sepulveda was planted in the Zuluaga campaign by President Santos.
“The hacker served to penetrate the campaign of Doctor Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in the name of the campaign of Juan Manuel Santos, in the name of President Santos,” Uribe said in a radio interview Monday, repeating the official narrative that emerged from the Zuluaga campaign after the initial revelations.
But in the latest Semana clips, Sepulveda says, “The idea that I’m an infiltrator for ‘Santismo’ makes me laugh.”
“Ex-President Uribe has said I’m a recipient of narcotrafficking money, that I’m an infiltrator — No, no sir,” he said in the video, filmed prior to Uribe’s most recent rebuttal.
According to Sepulveda, Uribe’s role in the scandal extends well beyond simply sticking up for his candidate.
|“For [Zuluaga] not to have known what I was talking about would suprise me.”|
“Carlos Escobar used to always say that he was one of the people presenting information to ex-President Uribe,” said Sepulveda. Escobar is another alleged hacker involved in political contracting, who Sepulveda alleges was responsible for much of the attacks against Pacho Santos, Uribe’s former vice-president.
Escobar, Sepulveda also said in the interview, was responsible for “half” the “dirty campaigning” conducted by the Democratic Center during March’s congressional elections, in which the newly formed right-wing party won a sizalbe opposition bloc in both houses of Congress.
Uribe, perhaps the most vocal critic of the Jaun Manuel Santos government and ongoing FARC peace talks in Colombian politics, has come forth on several occassions with what appear to be military leaks.
In one notable case during the campaign cycle, Uribe claimed to have access to inside intelligence contradicting the official government reports that a military helicopter had crashed due to mechanical error and not, as Uribe claimed, because it was shot down by rebels.
During the Uribe administration,
Colombia Reports has thus far not received comment from the Democratic Center party or the offices of Uribe or Zuluaga, despite repeated requests.