The International Crisis Group is a non-governmental organization dedicated to preventing deadly conflict.
The report stated that paramilitaries and guerrillas posed a threat to local government and are seeking to “consolidate and expand their holds over local governments in the October 2011… elections.”
The group noted that this years high number of assassinated local candidates did not bode well for the elections and that armed groups might use other techniques, including intimidation and bribery, to cement their control over mayors, councilmen, and other local officials.
The report listed a number of recommendations to push back the influence of armed groups on local government. Political parties were advised to screen all political candidates and exclude those with a questionable past, including relatives of politicians linked to paramilitaries or put forth by politicians with ties to armed groups.
Last June, the chairman of the Partido de la U., Santos’ unity party asked the government for help in weeding out corrupt candidates.
The group called on the national government to act quickly and effectively on information that suggested a candidate is in danger of intimidation or assassination, and to rigorously apply anti-corruption legislation to all politicians regardless of party.
The report also asked the government to create a special prosecutor unit in the justice department to handle election fraud, to make sure that biometric voting machines would be available for areas well known for voting irregularities, and to clearly communicate to Colombians that access to special programs and subsidies is a right, not a privilege to starve out political clientelism.
Finally the group called on candidates to declare their campaign contributions early in the campaign and also on the Organization of American States to create an electoral observation mission for Colombia this fall.
The report noted that the challenge of preserving local government were significant, but that Bogota seems better equipped to do so.
Last week the government mapped corruption risk in 978 of 1,103 municipalities with the highest risk occurring in the presence of illegal armed groups.