Depending on the testimony of aides to presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office will decide whether or not to open a criminal investigation on the embattled candidate over a wiretap scandal that exploded just over a week before elections..
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
With five days until Colombians go to the polls to select the country’s next president, Zuluaga’s campaign manager, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, spoke to investigators in the Prosector General’s Office headquarters on Bogota Monday morning. Hoyos resigned last week over his connection to a covert hacking operation reportedly being run out of the Zuluaga campaign.
The chief suspect in the unfolding scandal over the alleged illegal wiretapping, which targeted parties involved in ongoing peace talks between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government, has already been apprehended. Computer engineer Andres Sepulveda, a contractor for the Zuluaga campaign, was arrested in Bogota last week and has since been interrogated by prosecution officials.
Zuluaga not presently investigated
Prosecutor General’s Office spokesman Arnulfo Menendez told Colombia Reports Monday that no investigation will be opened into the candidate himself until the investigative body has had time to process whatever information arises from the interrogations of Sepulveda and Hoyos.
“There is still nothing because we are receiving the testimonies of Sepulveda […] Today Hoyos was leaving his statement. We are in the process of corroborating evidence, but it is still unknown what the next step is going to be,” he said.
The Zuluaga campaign fell from grace and into legal trouble after the arrest of Sepulveda and revelations by officials from RCN that Hoyos and Sepulveda had tried to feed the national TV news network classified information.
Zuluaga caught on film
Electoral tensions rose to a boiling point on Saturday, when a video appeared of Zuluaga discussing classified intelligence regarding the FARC and the rebel group’s ongoing peace talks with the government.
The individual briefing the presidential candidate in the video was identified as Sepulveda, who mentions the “access” he gained to the information through his alleged contacts within the Colombian Armed Forces. Zuluaga had previously claimed he hand never dealt directly with the alleged hacker.
In Saturday’s video, Sepulveda briefed Zuluaga over his intelligence work and informed the presidential candidates he had military intelligence reports, including allegedly classified information that had come from the US Army.
Following the release of the video, other participants in the elections called for the immediate resgination of their opponent.
According to Zuluaga however, the video was a montage aimed at torpedoing his presidential ambitions.
Former President Alvaro Uribe, Zuluaga’s political patron, said the entire scandal was a set-up orchestrated by Juan Jose Rendon, the former political strategist of Santos.
Zuluaga not the only one in trouble
Uribe-loyals and Zuluaga supporters have stressed the coincidence of the revelation of the spy scandal ever since it broke one day after media reported that Santos’ main political strategist was accused of having received $12 million in drug money in 2010 to promote a deal between the government and Colombia’s top drug lords.
The revelation forced the immediate resignation of Rendon, considered an expert in black propaganda, and a purge of Santos’ campaign team.
In spite of ongoing scandals, Santos and Zuluaga fare well in polls
In spite of the ongoing scandals surrounding the Zuluaga campaign, the most recent polls before the cut off — according to law, no polls can be released a week leading up to the elections — shows not only that Colombians did not punish Uribe’s candidate for repeatedly lying about the scandal, but rewarded him in the wake of the matter.
Between the end of April and Sunday, Zuluaga skyrocketed in polls, all but clinching his spot in a second round run-off between the Uribe-loyalist and Santos.
Colombia’s elections are set for May 25. If none of the candidates know to obtain an absolute majority in the election, a run-off between the two leading candidates will be held on June 15. The new president will be inaugurated on August 7.