Colombian broadcaster offered peace talks info by hacker, opposition figure

Reuters News
Posted: May 07, 2014 10:20 PM

By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian broadcaster said on Wednesday it was offered information on peace talks with leftist rebels by an opposition campaign official and a hacker arrested for spying on the negotiators.

The official, a campaign manager for right-wing presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, resigned late on Wednesday.

TV channel RCN News said that it was contacted last month by Luis Alfonso Hoyos, the campaign manager, who visited the RCN offices in the company of Andres Sepulveda, the alleged hacker arrested Tuesday after a raid on his Bogota office by the prosecution service.

The two men said they had evidence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, currently holding peace talks with the government, were pressuring citizens to vote for President Juan Manuel Santos in May elections, the channel said.

The men also told RCN they had videos and recordings of several left-wing politicians meeting to discuss the formation of a new FARC political party, according to the broadcaster.

"The information did not have the quality or precision that it needed to be published," RCN head Rodrigo Pardo said, adding that the allegations were checked with other sources.

Hoyos denied any wrongdoing on Wednesday evening, but said he was resigning his post to avoid affecting the campaign.

The aim of the people linked with the raided office "was to sabotage, interfere with and affect the peace process in Havana," Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre told reporters on Tuesday.

There were "initial indications" that Santos' emails were also being monitored from the facility, he added.

The Zuluaga campaign denied any knowledge of illegal activity and asked for a full investigation, while Santos asked the prosecutor to "get to the bottom of this matter."

President Santos has made the Cuba peace talks the hallmark of his four years in office, and he says he needs to secure a second mandate on May 25 to reach a peace deal ending five decades of civil conflict.

Santos is the front-runner in the elections that look headed for a second round of voting. Zuluaga has been critical of the peace process, saying it could lead to immunity or light sentences for the rebels.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)