Jailed Political Strategist Describes How He Rigged Mexico's 2012 Election

Government (Foreign) // Mexico

Supporters of Enrique Peña Nieto hacked opponents to help him win Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, according to one incarcerated Colombian coder who says he was part of the scheme.

Andrés Sepúlveda claims to have stolen data, installed malware and manipulated social media sentiment to get the job done.

Sepúlveda is serving a 10-year sentence for hacking crimes related to Colombia’s 2014 presidential election, when he tried to get rightwing opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga into office. After several attempts on his life, Sepúlveda reportedly chose to go public about his dirty work so he can win support for a reduced sentence, writes the Guardian.

According to the Guardian's synopsis, Sepúlveda reportedly was given a $600,000 budget to undermine the campaigns of Peña Nieto’s two main opponents on both sides of the political spectrum: the ruling National Action party’s Josefina Vázquez Mota and the Democratic Revolution party’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Bloomberg reports:

Sepúlveda’s team installed malware in routers in the headquarters of the PRD candidate, which let him tap the phones and computers of anyone using the network, including the candidate. He took similar steps against PAN’s Vázquez Mota. When the candidates’ teams prepared policy speeches, Sepúlveda had the details as soon as a speechwriter’s fingers hit the keyboard. Sepúlveda saw the opponents’ upcoming meetings and campaign schedules before their own teams did.

Money was no problem. At one point, Sepúlveda spent $50,000 on high-end Russian software that made quick work of tapping Apple, BlackBerry, and Android phones. 

He poured the pilfered intelligence into a “virtual army” of fake Twitter accounts that steered conversation toward subjects that would strengthen Peña Nieto – for example by acclaiming his plan to crack down on drug violence – or embarrass rivals.

Sepúlveda claims many of the candidates he promoted may be unaware of his role, which was organized via middlemen.