A video released early Sunday shows an election official in Colombia’s third-largest city shouting praise for presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and for Colombian paramilitary groups. The official has since been removed from office.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
Auxiliary Registrar Harold Enrique Gonzalez was apparently under the influence of alcohol when he was recorded in Colombia’s western state of Cali publicly endorsing Zuluaga, in violation of laws banning public officials from proselytization, and calling for the continued vitality of parmailitaries responsible for the majority of human rights violations in the country.
“Zu-zu-zu-Zuluaga,” he is shown chanting in the video, “Long live paramilitarism! I give my support to Zuluaga, for the paramilitaries, my boy, for the farmers afflicted here in Colombia.”
Between chanting for the hardline candidate and shouting random expletives, Gonzalez told the cameraman, “Record all that you want. Don’t be afraid.” Moments later, the election official had an apparent change of heart and started slapping at the camera.
The delegate of the Registry’s office in Valle del Cauca said that Gonzales was removed from office and that disciplinary proceedings are being conducted. Gonzales has a contract that stops at July 1, and the Registry’s office said the chances that the contract will be renewed are not very good, news outlet ntn24 reported.
It has yet to be confirmed when the video was actually recorded. If the incident did occur either Saturday night or Sunday morning, it could be a violation of Colombia’s 36-hour dry law, restricting the sale and public consumption of alcohol throughout the duration of the presidential elections. Assuming the video is not doctored, the elections officials behavior clearly violates laws prohibiting public employees from campaigning on behalf of politicians.
Colombia’s Constitution prohibits all public officials, including members of the Armed Forces and the National Police, from publicly engaging in political advocacy.
Five members of Colombia’s National Police were dismissed from their posts last week for spreading political propaganda in support of Zuluaga via social media.
This year’s presidential race has been characterized as the “dirtiest” in Colombian history, with both candidates marred in scandals and unsubstantiated accusations. One week before first round elections, Zuluaga was recorded on tape discussing classified intelligence with an alleged hacker and former campaign worker accused of collaborating with military officials to subvert ongoing peace talks between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebel group, the country’s largest.
On Sunday, Zuluaga will be facing off against Santos, who he beat by four points in first round elections.
Early election reports indicate a 26% increase in electoral irregularities between the first and second rounds of the presidential contest.
Polls opened throughout the country at 8AM Sunday and will close at 4PM, with initial results expected before 8PM.