Thursday, May 8, 2014

Uribista Candidate's Campaign Tried to Sabotage Colombia Peace Talks

Colombia's presidential race is heating up, with scandals rocking the campaigns of both leading candidates. After an advisor for President Juan Manuel Santos stepped down earlier this week in response to bribery allegations, the campaign manager for his rival Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has resigned as well. 

Yesterday's resignation of Luis Alfonso Hoyos, Zuluaga's campaign chief, is related to the recent arrest of a hacker accused of illegally gathering information on the peace talks between FARC rebels and the government in Havana. While the individual had also been contracted by the Zuluaga camp to provide information security and social networking services, the Uribista candidate insisted that he had no knowledge of the spying efforts. 

But these claims were contradicted when the head of Colombian news agency RCN revealed that Hoyos and the hacker approached him last month, offering to provide dirt on the peace process. As El Espectador reports, the men claimed to have evidence that the FARC were intimidating citizens into voting for Santos. According to Semana magazine, Hoyos tried to misrepresent the hacker, introducing him as an intelligence expert for the government.

RCN turned them down. Reuters notes that the broadcaster deemed that "the information did not have the quality or precision that it needed to be published."

This is not the first instance of apparent sabotage of the peace talks by the Colombian right. Last year, for instance, Alvaro Uribe himself leaked an army memo showing the coordinates where military operations had been temporarily suspended in order to guarantee the safe passage of guerrilla leaders leaving Colombia to join the negotiating table in Cuba.

News Briefs
  • Following Ecuadorean electoral authorities’ invalidation of a petition to hold a vote on drilling in the country’s Yasuni Amazon reserve, the environmentalist group which organized the signature drive has vowed to challenge the decision. According to El Universo, the “Yasunidos” coalition plans to bring the electoral council to local and international courts, in addition to organizing demonstrations around the country.
  • Mexico’s Animal Politico profiles a joint report on the use of torture by security forces, authored by the Institute for Security and Democracy (Insyde), the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) and the Northwest Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). In the report (PDF), which was released to coincide with the recent visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, the groups fault the administration of former President Felipe Calderon with launching a security strategy which encouraged impunity for torture and other abuses.
  • The new head of Chile’s National Service for Women has confirmed that the government of President Michelle Bachelet is preparing a bill that would loosen the country’s harsh anti-abortion law. According to La Nacion, the reform would allow abortion in three cases: when the fetus is non-viable, when the mother's health is in danger and in cases of rape.
  • In Venezuela today, a judge is set to determine whether to proceed with a case against imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, accused of inciting violence in the recent wave of protests, El Universal reports.
  • Over at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, David Smilde looks at the findings of a new Datanalisis survey which shows a huge drop in support for the government of Nicolas Maduro. Nearly 60 percent of respondents disapprove of Maduro’s performance, and roughly the same proportion (including 15 percent of Chavistas) think he should not complete his term in office, according to the poll. Smilde argues that these numbers offer an explanation for the Maduro government’s decision to dialogue with the opposition MUD coalition. Meanwhile, El Pais notes that a MUD-government meeting planned for yesterday has been postponed to next week.  
  • Today’s Washington Post features an editorial backing U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, asserting that they could complement the dialogue in Caracas by pressuring the Maduro government to “agree to reforms that could break Venezuela’s free fall.”
  • Speaking in London following the recent publication of the LSE report calling for a shift in the global drug paradigm, Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla confirmed reporters  that his country is weighing the legalization of marijuana and poppy production. In remarks to Reuters, Bonilla said doing so would mean “raising taxes, fundamental resources for prevention, resources that could be used by the Guatemalan state for social development.”
  • In the latest headache for Brazilian authorities linked to the World Cup, the country’s Federal Police union is threatening to go on strike during the upcoming soccer tournament if the government does not improve their pay and working conditions.
  • Cuban officials have announced the arrest of four individuals accused of organizing attacks on military installations with the goal of inciting anti-government unrest on the island. The suspects have been linked to members of the Miami exile community with ties to Luis Posada Carriles, a well-known former CIA operative and anti-Castro saboteur. Reuters reports that Posada’s lawyer denies the allegations.