The Colombian attorney general’s office announced yesterday that authorities have arrested a hacker suspected of spying on communications belonging to the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) as they conduct peace talks in Havana.
Andrés Sepúlveda was arrested in a raid on a Bogotá office for allegedly running an illegal spying ring. Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre said that Sepúlveda’s operation was selling information to a third party in an attempt to “sabotage, interfere and affect the peace process in Havana.” Investigators believe that President Juan Manuel Santos’ emails may have been intercepted.
Sepúlveda is linked to the political campaign of Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) candidate who is running against Santos in Colombia’s May 25 presidential election. Zuluaga acknowledged yesterday that Sepúlveda has been providing social network and security services for his campaign since February, but insisted that the spying ring had nothing to do with his campaign.
A prior spying scandal unveiled in February also targeted the peace talks in Havana, but Montealegre said that the latest scandal was not linked to Operation “Andrómeda,” in which members of the Colombian military set up a special intelligence unit to spy on the government, the FARC, and journalists’ communications.
The raid comes days after Santos’ chief campaign strategist, J. J. Rendon, resigned amid allegations that he received $12 million from drug kingpins in exchange for mediating a negotiated surrender.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made his first official visit to Ecuador on Monday, accompanied by Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguín and Minister of Transportation Germán Cardona Gutiérrez. President Santos met with his Ecuadorian counterpart, President Rafael Correa, to discuss ways to cooperate on trade, infrastructure and security.
One of the early outcomes of the visit was an agreement to consider flights between Quito and Bogotá as domestic travel, which President Santos said would avoid “red tape and cost overruns.” The leaders also pledged to agree on a maritime boundary and announced the construction of a bridge above the Mataje River that would join the coasts of both countries.
Minister Holguín also announced yesterday that both presidents seek to end the conflict involving truckers along the border. The Colombian Truckers Association began a protest in October, claiming that Ecuador’s truckers, by failing to comply with regulations established in the Community of Andean Nations regarding the transportation of cargo, created unfair competition.
President Santos’ visit comes almost four years after Colombian security forces conducted a deadly attack against a FARC camp on Ecuadorian territory in March 2008. President Correa pledged Ecuador’s commitment to cross-border security, saying “any criminal group that comes to Ecuador from Colombia will be sent back.”