A report released by Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office on Monday revealed that 221 of the country’s municipalities are at risk from illegal armed groups during the upcoming elections.
The report highlighted that 65 municipalities are at extreme risk, 69 at high risk and 87 at medium risk across 25 of its 32 states.
The states of Antioquia (25), Cauca (24), Choco (18), Cordoba (15) and Norte de Santander (15) were singled out as being states with the most municipalities vulnerable to interference from illegal armed groups.
The report states that Colombia’s largest insurgent group the FARC having influence in 181 (82%) of the 221 municipalities at risk.
The influence of Colombia’s second largest insurgent group the ELN have been identified in 69 (31%) of municipalities at risk.
Neo-paramilitary groups have been found to be present in almost half of the total cases, 108 municipalities in total.
The risks include coercion, fraud intimidation by illegal armed groups towards voters as well as candidates. Death threats to candidates who do not support interests of those illegal armed groups are also common.
The report notes that although these numbers are worrisome 2014 levels are lower than figures released before the 2010 elections which stood at 36% of Colombia’s municipalities.
The search for fair and open elections is a prime concern for Colombia. Regional institution UNASUR last week agreed with Colombian authorities to send a delegation to help monitor and advise through the various electoral processes.
Colombian election NGO Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) has also been keeping a close eye on the country’s electoral process. In February this year the independent watchdog released a report highlighting the serious dangers facing Colombia’s electorate in both the congressional and presidential elections that will be held on March 9 and May 25 respectively. According to their report, over a third of Colombia’s total population will be at high risk of electoral violence.
- Defensoría advierte riesgo electoral por orden público en 221 municipios del país (Colombia Ombudsaman’s Office)
- La MOE lanza alertas tempranas en el Putumayo ante riesgos electorales (Caracol Radio)