Neo-paramilitary groups, particularly Los Rastrojos, have intimidated and threatened voters in the west of Colombia to vote for specific candidates, non-governmental observers said Sunday.
Without naming the names of the specific candidate congressmen who were pushed by the neo-paramilitaries, the Mission for Electoral Observation (MOE) said to have received multiple complaints about neo-paramilitary intimidation.
Although leftist guerrillas weren’t able to openly disturb the elections, there was intense fighting between guerrilla and army in the Cauca department, which prevented a number of Colombians from exercizing their right to vote, the NGO says.
The observers praised the military’s effort, saying they ensure relatively normal voting in most of guerrilla-dominated territories.
According to the MOE, candidates from the controversial Party for National Integration (PIN) in the town of San Onofre, Sucre, had been buying votes. Similar reports came from the city of Cartagena and other towns in the departments of Sucre, Antioquia, Cesar and Caldas.
In Bogota and the Valle department, authorities found pre-marked ballots. In Maicao, a town in Guajira, close to the Venezuelan border, the MOE said that there are suspicions that some 20,000 pre-marked ballots were included in the vote-counting.
According to the observers, elderly and poor in the Antioquian town of Puerto Nare were threatened that they would lose their health care benefits if they didn’t vote for a specific candidate. The MOE did not say which candidate.
The MOE report says that on Saturday authorities seized 54 million pesos and 139 million pesos respectively in the Choco and Arauca department. The money was seized from congress candidates.
Aside from the MOE, the inter-American Organization of American States had 100 people monitoring Sunday’s election, but had not reported on its findings on Sunday evening.