Colombia's FARC says ex-president behind spying on peace talks

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 05, 2014 12:59 PM

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebels accused former President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday of involvement in alleged spying on government negotiators at peace talks in Cuba, and said their delegation's communications were also intercepted.

The FARC comments came a day after President Juan Manuel Santos ordered an investigation into apparent spying on his negotiators by rogue elements in Colombia's military, saying "dark forces" were trying to sabotage his bid to end five decades of war with the leftist guerrillas.

Uribe, Santos's predecessor, intensified the military's attacks on the FARC during his two terms in power from 2002-2008, using support from the United States to thin the rebels' ranks and push them into more remote jungle areas.

"Alvaro Uribe is behind all this. Do not forget that (Uribe) is the No. 1 enemy of peace in Colombia," Ivan Marquez, head of the FARC's negotiating team in Havana, told reporters.

"Not only is there spying by Colombia on the government's peace delegation, but especially on the peace delegation of the FARC," he said, without elaborating or offering any evidence.

Uribe denied involvement when the spying allegations came to light on Tuesday with the unveiling of a 15-month investigation by respected weekly news magazine Semana. The former president said any suggestion that he was behind the supposed espionage was a "smoke screen."

Uribe is a fierce opponent of the peace talks. He says the FARC should be defeated militarily, instead of being offered concessions and impunity or light sentences for their crimes.

According to Semana, data from text messages were collected, but telephone calls were not listened to. The magazine said the spying was carried out from a Bogota restaurant and adjoining Internet center set up as a front for the operation.

Late on Tuesday, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said two generals -- including the head of army intelligence -- have been relieved from duty while the investigation takes place.

The negotiations with the FARC began in November 2012 and have been conducted in secrecy, which both sides have held to, except for brief communiqués about their progress.

A source cited by Semana said the spying operation, code-named "Andromeda," was aimed at gathering as much information as possible about what was being discussed at the talks.

(Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)