Colombia will ban liquor sales on Saturday amid a series of extreme security measures a day before the country holds one of its most important electoral cycles in recent history, a referendum on peace between the state and FARC rebels.
The selling of any alcoholic beverage is banned from Saturday 6PM until Monday 6AM. Border crossings will also be closed.
The national government had already banned the carrying of firearms from Friday to Wednesday.
Mayors and governors were also given the temporary right to restrict the carrying of passengers on motorbikes and other mobility restrictions.
Local and regional authorities are also allowed to impose a curfew amid fears of violence during the historic vote.
Media are not allowed to report on any public security incidents unless authorized by official sources. In past electoral cycles, media have ignored this order.
High stakes, high tensions
Sunday’s referendum will either ratify the recently closed peace deal with the FARC or stop the now-former guerrilla group’s ongoing demobilization and disarmament process in its tracks.
But, Colombia is strongly divided and while polls have indicated a comfortable victory for those supporting the peace deal, the pollsters are not entirely reliable.
The FARC is Colombia’s oldest, largest and most-feared guerrilla group in the country and its peace agreement with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has been fiercely debated by Colombians at home, in the street and on social media.
Guerrillas and neo-paramilitaries vow to not interfere
The country’s largest illegal armed group, paramilitary successor group AGC, a.k.a. “Los Urabeños,” has expressed its support for the peace deal and has taken the opportunity to call for inclusion in the process.
The smaller ELN guerrilla group, currently trying to formalize peace talks with the government, imposed a unilateral ceasefire for the days around the referendum.
Both groups were considered among the main risks for an orderly vote on Sunday. Additionally, regional political dynasties could resort to voter fraud to benefit their political purpose.
300,000 cops to guarantee safe and calm vote
However, after 52 years of extreme political violence and four years of formal talks, Colombia’s society is deeply and passionately divided about the concessions made between Santos and the guerrillas, and violence could occur between voters waiting for their turn at polling stations to say either “Yes” and “No” to the deal.
To prevent this, the national authorities deployed more than 300,000 police officers to guarantee safety and calm at the polling stations that will be open between 8AM and 4PM.
The results are expected the same evening or possibly the same afternoon.