An imprisoned Colombian hacker has told Bloomberg Businessweek that he was paid to rig elections throughout Latin America on behalf of right-wing candidates—including the controversial 2012 election of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Andrés Sepúlveda says he was paid to $600,000 USD to deploy an array of online techniques to bolster Peña Nieto’s campaign and to sabotage his opponents, including tapping the phones and computers of other candidates and managing tens of thousands of fake social media profiles and Twitter bots to drum up support for Peña Nieto.
Sepúlveda declared that he and other hackers installed malware to monitor opponents during 2012 campaign as part of ‘black propaganda’ operation.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Sepúlveda said, “My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumors—the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see.”
Juan José Rendón, the Miami-based political consultant who allegedly hired the hacker, told the Guardian he had only met him once and used his service only indirectly via subcontractors for website design in 2005.
“He is delusional,” Rendón said in a phone call. “All the things he describes are exactly like the TV show Mr Robot.”
Denying all accusations of wrongdoing, Rendón challenged Sepúlveda and Bloomberg to provide evidence of the claims in the form of emails or CCTV footage. He also cast doubt on the suggestion that the Internet is decisive in shaping public opinion.
“Can you really change the will of the people through social networks? Maybe in Ukraine or Syria where there is no alternatives. But here (in the Americas) where there is TV, a free press and door to door campaigns, it is not so influential,” he said.
Sepúlveda said he was also paid to rig the re-election of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and the election of right-wing Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was elected in 2009 following the U.S.-backed coup.
“When I realized that people believe what the internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything,” the hacker told Bloomberg.
Andrés Sepúlveda is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for hacking crimes related to Colombia’s 2014 presidential election.
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