The second round of the presidential elections in Colombia will take place on 15 June. Despite predictions, the first round did not end in favour of current president Juan Manuel Santos, who ceded three percent of the vote to his main rival Oscar Zuluaga. One would think that this gap is small, and that Santos now has the chance of turning the tide in his favour. A significant part of those who would have voted for candidates who have since dropped out are intending to give their vote to Santos, who is leading his election campaign under the slogans of achieving civil peace, demilitarisation, and the creation of favourable conditions for social and economic reforms.
The prospect of Santos’ new policy, however, which has been unconditionally subordinate to orders from Washington in the past, has prompted the Obama administration to make adjustments to its own policy toward Colombia. A stake has been placed on Oscar Zuluaga, the candidate for the right-wing conservative movement Democratic Center and protégé of ex-president Alvaro Uribe, the shadow boss of the Colombia drug mafia, and the organiser and instigator of far-right paramilitary organisations.
Time and again, reports have appeared in the media about their disbandment, along with stories about how their leaders had been tried on terrorism charges, but in the end it turns out that the most combat-ready paramilitary groups continue to operate. They are concentrated on the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian borders, and their gunmen are being used to carry out terrorist attacks in other countries including Brazil, whose government Washington regards as unfriendly, especially since Dilma Rousseff is still demanding clear public apologies from the Obama administration for America’s all-out electronic and human espionage in Brazil, and is starting to distance itself from the Empire, including in the sphere of military and technical cooperation. In response, Washington, as usual, is using its agents from the ‘fifth column’ and NGOs to wage anti-football protests, compromising the World Cup in Brazil.
Prominent Venezuelan politician José Vicente Rangel recently stated that the US has increased its infiltration of paramilitaries in Venezuela’s border areas in order to ‘argue’ for the need to deploy US armed forces and their closest allies in the country ‘in line with the OAS mandate’. Zuluaga is being regarded as a promising player in the fulfilment of this goal. He is sharply critical of the peace talks with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), preferring their complete surrender and unilateral disarmament. He also makes no secret of his harshly critical attitude toward any option which includes left-wing insurgents in the country’s political life.
During confidential meetings with representatives of the US Embassy in Bogota, Zuluaga guaranteed the further strengthening of Colombia’s allied relations with America. He believes that regional organisations like CELAC, UNASUR, ALBA, PETROCARIBE and others that exclude US membership do not have a future. In his opinion, the implementation of a free trade agreement between Colombia and the US would show fraternal countries in which direction they should move. Zuluaga is also in favour of keeping US military bases on Colombian soil, since dismantling the terrorist groups FARC and ELN is going to require a lot of time and effort, so help from US intelligence agency advisers will be vital. Zuluaga has assured Washington that he will promote Colombia’s experience of combating populist excesses throughout the region, first and foremost the influence of the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin American countries…
As US political analyst James Petras writes: «US Special Forces and ideologues entered Colombia to develop military and paramilitary terror operations – aimed primarily at penetrating and decimating political opposition and civil society social movements and assassinating activists and leaders… Thousands of activists, trade unionists, human rights workers and peasants were murdered, tortured and jailed. The ‘Colombian System’ [of government] combined the systematic use of para-militarism (death squads) to smash local and regional trade union, peasant opposition and popular insurgency, and ‘emptying the countryside’ of rebel sympathizers. Large-scale multi-billion dollar drug trafficking and money laundering formed the ‘financial glue’ to cement a tight relationship among oligarchs, politicos, bankers and US counter-insurgency advisers – creating a terrifying high-tech police state».
In turn, FARC representatives announced the unilateral «cessation of offensive operations against the armed forces and economic infrastructure» from 9-30 June: «We never lose hope that gestures like these will be appreciated… We believe that the majority of Colombians are against so much bloody bile [in hostile propaganda]. As a result of peace efforts, Colombia could become a remarkable country. That is something worth thinking about».
The election campaign is accompanied by copious amounts of incriminating information. Helping his protégé, Alvaro Uribe accused Santos of «informal agreements» with FARC leaders to abandon a tough stance on many of the points on the negotiating agenda. Uribe soon had to abandon these accusations, however, due to a lack of evidence. With no less tenacity, Uribe is using the thesis on the billions of dollars that partisans have «earned» with the help of drug cartels, extortion and intimidation. «FARC terrorists are supposed to use this money to compensate all the victims of their crimes», Uribe declared. «But it will never be used for this».
Before the first electoral round, a scandal blew up around Zuluaga, the consequences of which are now difficult to guess. Colombian intelligence agencies exposed professional hacker Andres Sepulveda, who was carrying out extensive surveillance of the peace process between Santos representatives and FARC delegates in Havana. The public prosecutor’s office confirmed the authenticity of a video showing a meeting between Zuluaga and the hacker. At first, Zuluaga declared that the video was a montage, then began to put forward other explanations. The figure of Sepulveda, who as it turned out was the one who contacted Colombian intelligence agency representatives, raises a number of questions. He was, in fact, the head of an international hacker group whose activities for quite a long time aroused the interest of neither Colombian intelligence agencies nor, more importantly, US intelligence agencies, which control Colombia’s radio-electronic space in the most comprehensive way possible.
During a search of Sepulveda’s office, materials of a confidential nature were discovered on Latin American countries that Washington regards as «unfriendly». Some of the materials were not of hacker origin – photocopied documents obtained through operations in various countries. In other words, a rather influential intelligence agency (clearly not Colombian) used Sepulveda in the cyberwar. In particular, it became clear that Sepulveda had published materials of «black propaganda» on the Internet on the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Brazil. He could have only done this in the interests of the USA. The gathering of information on the negotiation process in Havana was carried out on behalf of clients from the US embassy, Sepulveda then passed on some of the «incriminating» material obtained to presidential candidate Zuluaga.
Santos intervened in what is a hostile combination for him just in time, and Sepulveda and his accomplices are giving evidence. The main intrigue now is whether Santos will decide to expose the ominous American shadow in this story.