Sixty people were injured when killer bees attacked a campaign rally of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe on Saturday, according to health officials.
Uribe was in a hamlet in El Paso, Cesar to promote the candidacy of his political disciple in a presidential election next weekend, Ivan Duque.
The last-standing Marxist rebel group, the ELN, has strengthened its control near the region where the bee attack took place.
Duque was not present at the meeting in the La Loma hamlet; he is on a strict schedule to tour as much of the country as the party budget permits..
‘Africanized bee attack’
According to the former president, a swarm of “africanized bees” attacked the crowd that had gathered in La Loma’s community center to hear the controversial leader of the hard-right Democratic Center party.
The incident was confirmed by the Health Secretary of the Cesar province. Secretary Nicolas Mohrez said that parts of the local health office collapsed after it was flooded by people seeking medical assistance.
There was a bee attack on a crowd that was at a political rally. The La Loma post almost collapsed due to the influx of people. More than 60 people were affected, one way or another it began to collapse. We asked for immediate support from Bosconia, La Jagua de Ibirico and Chiriguna.
Cesar Health Secretary
Fifteen people were hospitalized for suffering serious consequences of the bee stings, according to Uribe and his campaign team.
“Please, in the hospital of La Loma we need hydrocortisone, adrenaline and tavegyl,” Uribe said on Twitter.
Killer bees as biological weapon?
According to far-right former Governor Alfredo Araujo, who has been banned from politics over alleged ties to terrorist groups, “cases of bees were thrown at the meeting presided by @AlvaroUribeVel.”
Hoy en la población de La Loma fueron lanzadas cajas de abejas africanas a la reunión que presidía @AlvaroUribeVel, hay más de 15 personas en estado grave. Antes tiraban granadas y cilindros bombas, hoy abejas.
— Alfredo Araujo C. (@fello_arca) June 9, 2018
“Before they threw grenades and mortars, now it’s bees,” the controversial regional “caudillo” said in reference to a peace process with Marxist FARC rebels, the traditional opponents of elite politicians like Araujo and Uribe.
Local media said the bees are native to the region and were probably agitated by the two helicopters that landed in the remote and generally quiet hamlet.
The former president would not confirm the bee attack was due to foul play or a conflict between the helicopters and the bees.
The local mayor said he found the helicopter thesis logical, but said “we can also not discard this is about sabotage.”
Gratitude with emergency agencies
Once medical personal gained control over the situation and the most serious patients began being sent to larger hospitals in the region, Uribe took to Twitter to express his gratitude to the local medical staff.
According to a visibly upset Uribe, 15 people were treated in hospital and were stable.
Gracias al gran equipo médico y de enfermeras,articulación de hospital público y clínicas privadas, pacientes con picaduras de abejas africanizadas van recuperándose. Gracias a las mineras del Cesar por su apoyo. pic.twitter.com/AAzEk2duL7
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) June 9, 2018
Meetings of Uribe have previously been disturbed by protesters over his alleged links to paramilitary death squads. Wild insects who have been affected by the fumigation of coca promoted by the former president have never before turned violent during political rallies.
The former President has been touring extensively through Colombia to recover executive power for his hard-right party that has warned it would “shred to pieces” a peace deal with the FARC. His protege, Ivan Duque, has not ruled out ending ongoing peace talks with ELN guerrillas carried out by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos.