Investigators discovered a clandestine cyber-espionage operation targeting the government’s negotiations with leftist guerrillas, Colombia’s attorney general said Tuesday, adding that the spies apparently intercepted President Juan Manuel Santos’ e-mails.
“The aim of the people who are connected to that criminal enterprise, was to sabotage and interfere with the peace process in Havana,” Eduardo Montealegre told a press conference.
A score of agents spent more than 12 hours searching two office buildings on Bogota’s north side, the attorney general said.
Based on a preliminary review of what they found, it is “probable” that the spies gained access to the president’s e-mails, Montealegre said.
The agents arrested one person, identified as Andres Fernando Sepulveda, on suspicion of espionage.
The discovery of the spy operation comes three months after newsweekly Semana exposed a covert military intelligence scheme to monitor government and rebel delegates to the peace talks in Havana as well as journalists covering the negotiations.
Two army generals were cashiered in the wake of those revelations and a subsequent probe determined that unknown individuals had intercepted at least two of Santos’ e-mails.
The president attributed those intercepts to “political motivations” on the part of people seeking to undermine his bid for a second term in the May 25 elections.
Negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, began in Havana in late 2012 and are aimed at ending the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America.
The FARC and others have accused former President Alvaro Uribe of being behind the spying operations.
Uribe, a hardliner who governed from 2002 to 2010, vowed during his presidency to defeat the rebels militarily if they did not give up their armed struggle.
He has been a fierce opponent of the peace process and accuses Santos - who was Uribe’s defense minister - of squandering eight years of military gains and elevating the FARC’s political stature.
Elected to the Senate in March, Uribe is backing Santos’ main rival in the presidential race, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.