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September 30, 2014
Saturday, May 24, 2014

Colombian polls: Zuluaga hacking video is real

Oscar Iván Zuluaga, presidential candidate for the Democratic Centre, speaks during a televised presidential on Thursday.
General prosecutor says incriminating footage of opposition candidate was not altered

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The Colombian General Prosecution Office said yesterday that a video in which the presidential candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga was seen in an arrested computer expert’s office was not subjected to editing, contrary to what Zuluaga’s defence lawyer had claimed.

Last Sunday the magazine Semana published a video in which Zuluaga appears alongside Fernando Andrés Sepúlveda, an alleged computer hacker who was arrested two weeks ago.

General Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre accuses Sepúlveda of hacking President Juan Manuel Santos’ email account and delegates of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during peace talks they are carrying out with the Colombian government in Cuba.

A statement released by Montealegre’s press office yesterday says the video is “original” and that it had not been “tampered.”

“The video we have analyzed has not been edited in any way,” the statement said.

The video that was published in Semana, it said, was merely adapted in “a journalistic way.”

On Thursday, Zuluaga’s lawyer Jaime Granados told the prosecution that the video in which his client appears with Sepúlveda was a hoax and that it had been edited.

Zuluaga has however acknowledged that he has met up with Sepúlveda on at least one occasion.

Upon hearing the news Granados said told AP by telephone that Zuluaga’s campaign has fallen victim of an infiltration, and although he hasn’t seen the original video held by the prosecution he says it can’t be used against his client in court as it was filmed illegally.

Granados also said that he will ask that the video be analyzed by a US or Spanish laboratory to verify the content’s authenticity and indicated that he would ask Montealegre that a special agent oversees the process.

The latest polls indicate that there won’t be a clear winner in tomorrow’s elections and, therefore, Santos and Zuluaga will be forced to battle it out in a runoff on June 15.

The video came to light a day after Santos’s main campaign strategist, Venezuela’s Juan José Rendón, was forced to resign after jailed drug lord Javier Antonio Calle Serna said that he had paid him US$12 million in 2011.

Calle Serna said he had paid Rendón to secure his help in arranging favourable terms for his surrender to the authorities.

Above all the drug lord — leader of Colombia’s Rastrojos gang — wanted to prevent his extradition and that of three other traffickers to the US.

The economy grew 4.3 percent last year, the fastest pace among major Latin American economies after Peru, while the urban jobless rate fell during every year of Santos’s government.

Zuluaga, who was Finance minister from 2007-2010, supports many of the same economic policies as Santos, including a “fiscal rule” to curb the government’s ability to run deficits, and central bank independence.

Santos’s re-election bid hasn’t received a big boost from the peace talks with the FARC that started in 2012, with many voters hostile to the idea of the guerrillas receiving immunity for crimes.

The government and rebels last week said they had reached an agreement to cooperate in the fight against illegal drugs, bringing closer a negotiated end to an insurgency that began in 1964.

Even after the Santos government tracked down and killed the FARC’s top two leaders, the guerrillas retain control over some remote mountain and jungle regions, from where they launch attacks on army patrols and oil pipelines.

Santos rejected the FARC’s calls for a cease-fire during the negotiations, arguing that this would allow them to regroup and give them an incentive to string the talks out for as long as possible.

Polling stations

430,000 soldiers and police officers are assigned to ensure security in 10,425 polling stations to be installed in the country for tomorrow’s vote.

“We will ensure that tomorrow Colombians have safe, peaceful and free elections where everyone can express their opinions in a democratic way,” said Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, in an interview.

“We will send a message of reassurance to the international community because Colombia is a mature democracy,” said Pinzón.

— Herald with AP, Reuters, online media

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