Councilors across Colombia will strike in September because the government has failed to enact promised measures relating to security.
The executive director of Colombia’s National Federation of Councils (Fenacon), Edgar Ablerto Polo Devia, told newspaper El Espectador on Wednesday that the strike, involving all of Colombia’s 12,000 councilors, will be called for the third week in September.
They will be protesting against the Interior Ministry’s decision to remove the protection afforded to hundreds of councilors.
Polo claims that the government had agreed to protect hundreds of councilors through the services of the National Protection Unit (UPN), but that the agreement was never fulfilled, “putting the lives of public servants at risk.”
“Around 400 councilors have been assassinated in the last 10 years,” said Polo. “And during 2012 and 2013 there have been 13 assasinations.” Seven of these happened in the first half of 2013.
“The life of around 4700 councelors is currently under threat, and 500 of them will soon lose their protection [from the UPN],” Polo complained, adding that in the most dangerous areas of the country new security measures promised by the government have not materialized.
Polo’s criticisms come after the President of Fenacon, Carmen Lucia Agredo called the government’s response to the councilors’ situation “lamentable”.
“There are 2260 councilors who have been assigned protection,” Agredo said, speaking to newspaper El Tiempo on August 18th. “[The AUP] offers them a bulletproof vest, a mobile phone, rent money and transport; but in almost half of the cases the vests are useless, the mobile phones cut out and they’re never actually given the rent money.”
The situation is so dire that Fenacon have decided to put their complaints to the United Nations and the Interamerican Commision of Human Rights.
Most of the threats against councilors reportedly come from rebel guerrilla groups like FARC, while others come from criminal organizations like neo-paramilitary group Urabeños and drug cartel Rastrojos.
It is no coincidence that the areas singled out by Agredo as the most dangerous for councilors – Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo, Caqueta, Guainia, Vaupes, Norte de Santander and Arauca – are also those areas in which these armed groups have the largest presence.
According to the country’s ombusman, criminal gangs intimidated candidates in 119 out of 1119 municipalities during Colombia’s 2011 elections for mayors, governors and councilors.
At the end of July the councilor for the municipality of Caicedonia in Cauca, southwest Colombia, was murdered while riding his motorbike, shot down by hitmen. His assistant was also killed.
Agredo claims that in the first half of 2013 the number of threats to councilors has increased by 47% compared with the same period in 2012.
- Concejales de toda Colombia anuncian que entrarán en paro (El Espectador)
- Concejales, cercados por muertes y amenazas (El Tiempo)
- “COMUNICADO DE PRENSA, LUTO POR ASESINATO DE CONCEJAL DE CAICEDONIA – VALLE DEL CAUCA” (FENACON)
- 10% of Colombia Council Members Threatened by Criminal Groups (Insight Crime)
- Alrededor de mil concejales han sido amenazados en el país (Vanguardia)