Colombia remains on alert to the possibility of foreign interference in the May 29 presidential elections. The U.S. and Colombian governments are cooperating to prevent this, Colombia’s Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) said on April 26.
“We are concerned […] about the possible intervention of other countries in the elections. We are working with the government, with all the competent authorities, to prevent this intrusion in the campaign,” U.S. ambassador in Colombia Philip Goldberg told radio station BlueRadio, during the signing of a U.S.-Colombia cooperation agreement to benefit Colombian children on April 26.
“At the international level it is clear that Russia has illicitly intervened in the 2016 U.S. elections and in the BREXIT vote in the U.K.,” Jairo Libreros, a Security and Public Policy professor at the Externado University in Bogotá, told A24 News Agency. “What one hopes in the Colombian case is that we have the opportunity to detect these types of acts […] technologically very difficult to handle.”
Colombia is in a state of alert from the president to the military leadership to the Police and the intelligence directorate, Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez said. “We know what has happened in other countries and we do not want it to be repeated in ours.”
What is at stake in Colombia in the upcoming elections not only affects those who live in the country, but also becomes an issue of geopolitical interest for those who want to control the region, reported Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
According to RNC, Colonel Dmitry Vladimirovich Tarantsov, a cyberespionage expert in the service of the Kremlin who has been in Colombia as military attaché of the Russian Embassy since 2019, was among the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, while on a diplomatic mission.
In addition, Colombian intelligence detected a Venezuelan spy posing as a soccer coach to photograph Colombian Army and Police facilities. Jeiker Valencia Sánchez, alias El Gato, was arrested and deported on April 7, the PanAm Post news site reported. This Venezuelan spy entered the country in 2018.
“We know about the direct relationship that exists between Russia and Venezuela […]. We are very attentive; taking care of all our physical borders and in terms of technology, interference, and interception of our communications systems,” said Foreign Minister Ramírez to Colombian magazine Semana.
According to Blu Radio the Ministry of Defense has detected false and misleading accounts disseminating information about the Colombian elections from Bangladesh, Mexico, and Venezuela. Russia rejected allegations of attempts to interfere in the May presidential election.
The fact-checking initiative Colombiacheck said that the country is witnessing an “explosion of disinformation” related to the rise of hundreds of fake news websites seeking to influence the presidential elections, reported Colombian newspaper El Pulzo.
Across Latin America, 70 percent of citizens cannot correctly identify whether a news story is true or false, added El Pulzo. Colombia and the U.S. are cooperating on cybersecurity “because misused technology, without a doubt, is a factor in the destruction of democracy,” Foreign Minister Ramírez told the Colombian website LAFM.
“Colombians have to decide who will be their president. It is the democratic process that we and other democratic countries support. We intend to continue working with Colombia in the tasks that unite us as democratic countries,” Ambassador Goldberg told TV station Tele Antioquia Noticias on April 29.