The presidential candidates in the upcoming May 25 elections reached the close of their campaigns with two vastly different news items in the headlines; the advances achieved in the peace talks and the espionage scandal involving the Center Democratic party candidate, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

colombia-candidatosThe electoral campaigns ended last weekend with the people remaining in a state of expectation.

Last Friday’s announcement of agreement on the third agenda item in the peace talks between the government and the FARC-EP guerrilla force, with respect to resolving the problem of drug trafficking, was received optimistically here and welcomed by the United Nations and other international organizations.

The U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs, resident in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, called it a “point of no return, on the path oward achieving peace,” vital not only within the country, but a key necessity regionally and globally.

That same day, the FARC-EP and the National Liberation Army (ELN) nnounced a unilateral ceasefire, with a view toward the upcoming lections, May 20 – 28.

In the final stage of his campaign, just concluded in this capital, antos reiterated that peace is the central objective of his candidacy s he vies for a second term (2014-2018). “Nothing will deter me from
the objective that Colombia wants to see: peace,” he said.

“We are very close to that peace which will allow us to reach our bjectives. I ask for the support of all Colombians,” he said.

One of his fiercest rivals, the Center-Democratic party candidate scar Ivan Zuluaga, was forced to step down in the final phase of his ampaign as he was touring the capital, after Semana magazine
published a video that showed him meeting with the hacker Andres Sepulveda.

The photos show the hacker offering details of the electronic intercepts carried out against the members of the FARC-EP negotiating team at the peace talks in Havana.

They also show the website under construction called “Voices in dialogue,” based on data captured by military intelligence, to which he assured he had access.

The office used by Sepulveda, under preventive arrest, was dismantled on May 6 by the public prosecutor’s office.

The shady links of Zuluaga, whose social networking campaign was managed by the hacker, were exposed along with his ties to the actress Lina Luna, the image adviser for the Center Democratic party led by former president Alvaro Uribe.

Revulsion against Zuluaga became a national trending topic on social networks. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians, party and political leaders, and social organizations called for him to “Step down, step
down, step down.”

“Zuluaga showed that he will stop at nothing to impose his war agenda, and completely shameless abuse of power,” said the Wave of Peace organization. The scandal that rocked his campaign was viewed by the majority as “dirty tricks.”

Backed by Uribe, Zuluaga spent the day yesterday trying to impugn the veracity of the video, in addition to claiming that it was a falsified montage created by people aligned with the Santos team. As such, he refused to discuss the subject with the press.

Clara Lopez, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Pole-Patriotic Union Coalition, appeared to have gained traction on the social networks, toward the end of the week. Enrique Peñalosa is
the Green Party candidate, and Marta Lucia Ramirez the candidate of the Conservative Party.

Today it was announced that the five candidates will participate on Thursday and Friday in televised debates that were not contemplated until now. The debates are a response to public demand, after an election season where projects and ideas were notably absent, and which Colombians say they need in order to decide their vote.

Election surveys are pointing toward runoff elections.