Illegal armed groups are trying to influence the October local elections in nearly 200 Colombian municipalities, the country’s ombudsman said Monday.
According to various media reports, Ombudsman Volmar Perez revealed that the most threatened regions are the southwestern departments and the Atlantic Coast. He explained that neo-paramilitary groups and drug cartels are dominating much of the northern coast while the FARC control most of the southern regions.
Perez noted that the FARC make up a majority of the aggressors, terrorizing 150 of the 199 municipalities, about 13% of the Colombian population. He also said that emerging criminal gangs are intimidating 119 municipalities, and the guerrilla group EPL threatens 38 municipalities in the department of Norte de Santandar.
He also warned about the formation of a new criminal gang known as the “Rondas Campesinas” that are operating in the southwestern department of Nariño.
According to Perez, the threats consist of kidnapping, murders and other forms of armed pressure.
There have already been at least 21 reported murders of political candidates and leaders in anticipation of the 2010 regional elections, with 41 other threats reported.