Local elections in more than a quarter of Colombia municipalities are at risk because of the presence of illegal armed groups that have already killed two mayoral candidates in the past few months, the country’s ombudsman said.
A total of 268 towns have been deemed to be at electoral risk due to pressure and threats received from the major armed groups that operate in the country, according to the Ombudsman.
Neo-paramilitary groups are posing the most widespread risk, with a violent presence in a total of 156 towns, followed by the FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, which has presence in 128 towns, the Ombudsman revealed.
Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN is threatening fair elections in a further 79 municipalities.
According to the ombudsman, records show that to date, there have been 106 acts of violence associated with the upcoming elections in 87 towns, within 27 of the country’s 32 provinces.
Between January 1 and August 26, 12 homicides were registered across the country involving running candidates, their family members, and public officials.
The National Electoral Commission reported that the 2015 figure of towns at risk is less than in previous years. According to the government, in 2007, the total was 403, and in 2011, 356.
Most of the armed groups posing security risks during the current electoral process are actors in Colombia’s armed conflict, which began in 1964 and has seen more than 260,000 Colombians killed and six million displaced. Others were formed from the remnants of drug cartels.