How political violence is marring Colombia’s 2022 election race

Violence related to Colombia’s 2022 elections has so far left 37 victims in the year ahead of the congressional vote in March next year, according to a think tank.

In its first report, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares) said Wednesday that it has registered 29 acts of political violence related to the upcoming elections since March 13, the first day of the official electoral calendar.

In Colombia, electoral violence is not only closely related to local dynamics of armed conflict and crime, but also with clientelistic and corrupt political dynamics. Traditionally, violence is just another electoral campaign strategy.

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The high-risk regions

Pares said the capital Bogota, and the provinces of Antioquia, Valle del Cauca and Tolima were at the highest risk of electoral violence because of an apparent repetition of violence registered ahead of the local elections in 2019.

Other provinces that stood out this year were Magdalena and Atlantico on the Caribbean coasts where so-called “clans” have long enjoyed almost absolute power.

Incidents of electoral violence

The victims

According to Pares, six people have been assassinated for alleged electoral motivations since March 13.

The vast majority of victims, 31 to be precise, received death threats.

The violence mainly targeted elected officials, followed by party members and journalists.

The majority of the government officials and political activists that suffered violence either belong to political organizations that oppose the national government or defeated regional clans in 2019.

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The alleged perpetrators

Pares was unable to establish who was behind the electoral violence in 21 of the 29 incidents the think tank registered since mid-March.

The remaining incidents related to death threats by paramilitary group AGC, lesser known groups like “Los Caparrapos” and the “Sierra Nevada Peasant Forces,” and virtually unknown groups like the “Medellin Self-Defense Forces” and “Las Panteras.”

Like in 2019, pamphlets of far-right group “Aguilas Negras” appeared throughout Colombia without targeting specific participants in the elections.

Pares is expected to release more reports on political violence ahead of the congressional elections in March and the presidential in May next year.

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