FARC politicans fear for their safety in run-up to first local elections since Colombia’s peace deal

(Image: Colprensa)

Politicians from former guerrilla group FARC have expressed serious security concerns in the run-up to Colombia’s local elections.

This year will be the first local and municipal elections since Colombia’s historic peace deal with the FARC that ended the group’s decades-long armed conflict with the state.

The group entered mainstream politics after the peace deal, proving its potential in the legislative elections: now a number of candidates are standing for local election in October.

But at least 100 FARC members have been murdered since the peace accords were signed in November 2016.

Many in the political movement are concerned by the lack of security for both politicians and ex combatants.

In the [FARC] Party, we are really worried about the security conditions, because it is clear that the further we progress with campaigns, the more the security environment deteriorates in certain territories.

FARC Senator Carlos Antonio Lozada

Regions suffering the most violence, both against ex-FARC politicians and social leaders more widely, are priority areas where the peace process was supposed to be bring specific development projects, according to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), which issued a warning on Monday.

There are 16 priority zones, called PDETs, that generally represent the zones where the armed conflict and political violence left the heaviest impact, such as Montes de Maria, Catatumbo, northern Cauca and Uraba.

We are now talking about 50% of violence against leaders being concentrated in the PDET regions, and 70% of murders at a national level happening in those areas.

MOE observer Camilo Vargas

The MOE has flagged four regions as critical, all of which coincide with priority zones for peace building.  The most alarming is North Cauca, where there have been nine murders of political activists and 27 other acts of aggression, since 27 October of last year.

Protection mechanisms the Timely Action Plan (PAO) and the National Protection Unit (UNP) have been failing, according to the MOE.

The government’s response to violence has been excessively militarist and exclusive of civil society in its creation of strategies to address the issue, according to the electoral observers.

To ensure that democratic rights of both candidates and voters are respected in the October elections, it will be key that the government acts to protect those threatened on the campaign trail, as well as those leading and organising other forms of political participation.

Commitment to the peace process will be  key part of this, as well as a roadmap for how to move forward, though the behaviour of President Ivan Duque during his presidency casts into serious doubt his capacity or will to carry the peace accords forwards, let alone protect rehabilitating ex-FARC combatants and politicans.

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