Colombia’s most northern state elects controversial new governor

Jose Maria Ballesteros (Photo: Twitter)

Colombia’s most northern state, the impoverished La Guajira, on Sunday elected a new governor. The winner is a political ally of the state’s former governor who was arrested in October last year for his alleged criminal ties.

La Guajira

MORE: North Colombia governor arrested, accused of homicide and paramilitary ties

La Guajira’s new governor is Jose Maria Ballesteros of Citizens’ Option (Opcion Ciudadana – OC), a party that was formed by family members and close allies of politicians in prison over ties to paramilitary organization AUC and surprisingly won three senate seats in the March congressional election.

Ballesteros is a political ally of former Governor Francisco Gomez, who was forced to leave office after being arrested for his alleged involvement in three homicides, ties to now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC and ties to a local crime lord.

The new governor is the son of Senator Jorge Eliecer Ballesteros of the U party of President Juan Manuel Santos.

The controversial governor only barely won the election by beating opponent Conservative / U Party candidate Wilmer David Gonzales with less than 10,000 votes difference.

The turn out in La Guajira was substantially higher than on May 25, when Colombia took to the polls for the first round of presidential elections. A little less than 42% of La Guajira’s eligible voters made their ways to polling stations to elect their new governor while only 24% turned up to elect a new president.

Following the election, electoral observers criticized the elections, claiming that jurors at a quarter of the polling stations were carrying election propaganda by one of the candidates. Additionally, the Electoral Observation Mission said at another quarter of the polling stations there were not the necessary number of jurors.

Political analyst Ariel Avila, who was forced to flee Colombia last year after revealing the alleged ties between the former governor and criminal organizations, called for an investigation of the reported irregularities.


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