Colombia’s highest government human rights official has issued a statement highlighting 136 municipalities that face “extreme” and “high risk” of violence from armed groups during the upcoming second round of presidential elections.
The Ombudsman’s Office has warned that 54 municipalities are at an extreme risk of violence and another 82 municipalities face a high risk following the termination of the unilateral ceasefire enacted by Colombia’s FARC and ELN guerrilla groups during the May 25 presidential elections, a statement released on Tuesday read.
The Ombudsman highlighted dangers faced from armed groups through threats, such as extortion, as well as the danger of forced displacement in the high risk areas, and called on the guerrillas to consider a new ceasefire for the second round.
Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, announced on Tuesday that it would discuss a renewed ceasefire which would take place during the country’s second round of presidential elections scheduled for June 15.
Despite the announcement, the Ombudsman has asked Colombia’s security forces to maintain in place a security scheme similar to the previous round of elections to ensure peace during the run off vote.
Municipalities at risk lower than during 2010 elections
According to the Ombudsman’s Office, municipalities across 15 states, including the central states Antioquia and Meta, the eastern states of Arauca and Norte de Santander, and the northern states of Bolivar and La Guajira, are the most vulnerable to attacks.
The figure of 136 municipalities, however, is 40% less than what was presented during the previous presidential election four years ago, where the Ombudsman’s Office reported a total of 233 municipalities at risk.
— Defensoría delPueblo (@DefensoriaCol) June 3, 2014
The threats of violence come mainly from Colombia’s two largest guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, as well as criminal gangs that have emerged after the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2006, collectively known as “Bacrim.”
The Ombudsman’s Office asked for attention to be drawn to the resurgence of the FARC and the ELN after the May 28 completion of the latest unilateral ceasefire. Earlier on Tuesday, four policemen were killed in an alleged guerrilla attack on their patrol in the eastern Colombian state of Arauca, one of the identified “at risk” states.
Although the Ombudsman’s Office issued a similar warning prior to the first round of the 2014 elections, highlighting the 221 most at risk areas, the elections ultimately proved to be some of the most peaceful in recent history.
- En alerta 136 municipios del país por posible riesgo para la segunda vuelta presidencial Elecciones (Colombia Ombudsman’s Office Press Release)
- Defensoria Del Pueblo (Twitter)