A campaign worker of opposition presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has admitted to wiretapping ongoing peace talks with rebel group FARC, reported radio station La FM on Saturday.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
According to the radio station, the alleged campaign spy admitted to the illegal wiretapping practices on May 5, the day he was arrested in the capital Bogota.
Suspect Andres Sepulveda reportedly admitted on record that had had accessed emails from people involved with the Cuba-based peace talks that are supposed to end 50 years of violence between the FARC and the government.
“When I say emails of the [negotiations] table, I mean the emails of the people who are in Havana, not necessarily the negotiators,” the hacker reportedly said in the report released one day before Zuluaga faces incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos in the second-round run-0ff of the 2014 elections.
Additionally, Sepulveda reportedly admitted to having obtained information from an army-operated clandestine wiretapping operation also allegedly wiretapping the peace talks illegally. The “Andromeda” military spying scandal cost a number of top military intelligence officials their job.
“A friend of mine was the direct contact with the ‘Andromeda’ people and other intelligence agencies,” the hacker reportedly testified, adding that he bought the information from the military.
In relation to his alleged contacts within Colombia’s police force, Sepulveda said he had delivered intelligence information to the DIJIN, the National Police’s intelligence and investigation unit, newspaper El Tiempo reported Friday.
The Sepulveda investigation seriously smeared the campaign of Zuluaga, who was caught on video being informed on strategic campaign advances and progress made in the peace talks by the arrested himself himself. Zuluaga and his defense team have said the video was fake, but this was denied by prosecutors.
The opposition candidate’s campaign manager was forced to resign after he was also caught on video with Sepulveda trying to provide allegedly classified information to nationsl television network RCN.
Allies of Zuluaga, including his political patron former President Alvaro Uribe, questioned the timing of the initial raid which took place one day after Santos’ chief political strategist was forced to resign after allegedly having received $12 million from top drug lords to promote a demobilization deal with the president.
Not the first wiretapping scandal
The discovery of the alleged Zuluaga campaign spying is concerning, given Colombia’s troubled history with illegal surveillance operations.
In February, based on 15-months of reporting and testimony from an unnamed inside source, Semana Magazine concluded that a Colombian military intelligence unit funded and coordinated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used advanced online technology and hacking techniques to monitor the text messages and emails of opposition politicians and representatives of both the government and the FARC involved in the Havana peace negotiations.
Classified under the code name “Andromeda,” the military’s Technical Intelligence Battalion’s so-called “gray hall” operated from underneath a registered bar and restaurant in the Colombian capital of Bogota, according to Semana.
An anonymous military source, said to be a captain in the Colombian military and the supervisor of the clandestine site, told Semana that the Andromeda project was run by Bitec-1, an elite intelligence unit.
Not even the second wiretapping scandal
The country’s most infamous wiretapping scandal unfolded in 2008 after opposition politicians, media and authorities discovered that Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency, the DAS, had been spying on the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians.
MORE: DAS wiretapping scandal
The investigations unveiled a comprehensive and extensive surveillance and interception campaign that had been targeting the Supreme Court in order to discredit the country’s institution that was investigating links between paramilitaries and politicians, the majority being political allies of the former President Alvaro Uribe.
The revelations drew international criticism, and led to the resignation of more than 33 DAS agents, more than a dozen of arrests and the eventual dismantling of the intelligence agency.