In the midst of an election wrought with accusations of impropriety, opposition presidential candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga appears in a newly published video discussing campaign strategy with Andrés Fernando Sepúlveda Ardila, a man arrested this month for spying on Colombia’s peace talks with the terror organization FARC.
Zuluaga, a conservative who is running against center-right incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and is backed by former President Álvaro Uribe, appears alongside campaign staff in the video published by Colombian magazine Semana with Ardila, who appears to be working on Internet campaign literature. Luis Alfonso Hoyos, Zuluaga’s campaign manager, asks about web campaigning, while Ardila at one point in the video discusses the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“I am showing you information from the intelligence side that can be made public,” Ardila says during the video, pointing to a sidebar that is not part of the public page he appears to be designing. “We can’t publish everything, either. Here is an example: this is the fact sheet of the military careers of those negotiating in Havana,” he says, indicating the location of the peace talks. He notes one name, Andrés París, and tells Zuluaga, “What he has done, what he has not done, how many captivity orders are active for him, how he behaves in the jungle, and when he started–it is intelligence information to which I have access.”
Ardila was arrested in early May under a number of charges, including illicit violation of communications law, use of malware, interception of intelligence, and espionage. The video, Semana claims, is two months old. It is believed that Ardila may have had direct access to emails between the Colombian President and FARC negotiators.
The video shifts accusations of impropriety directly to Zuluaga after a series of attacks on President Santos. Santos’ campaign manager quit earlier this month after accusations surfaced that he had received $12 million to facilitate a plea deal for a major drug cartel leader arrested in the United States. The former campaign manager, Venezuelan Juan José Rendón, quit immediately after the charges surfaced so as to “not cause a distraction,” but he denied the accusations against him. That did not stop the claims from becoming a scandal, however, as former President Uribe attacked Santos directly, alleging that some of that $12 million went to paying off campaign debts from his 2010 presidential election.
Both Santos and Zuluaga served in Uribe’s cabinet during Uribe’s tenure, though Zuluaga is considered more conservative than Santos. Elections will be held on May 25, and, by law, the candidates can no longer campaign between now and Election Day–which does not prevent third parties like Uribe from continuing public campaign debates.