An electoral observation NGO launched a distress call for the Sunday elections in Medellin, citing significant influence from illegal armed groups as well as serious threats against candidates, voters, and the electoral court.
According to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), Medellin, the capital of the northwest Antioquia department, received 56 reports of electoral violations, more than any other Colombian city. Antioquia also received 421 of Colombia’s 2,465 reports of electoral irregularities, nearly doubling the department with the second most electoral violations reported.
Twenty-one of the violations were considered irregularities, which includes vote buying, pressuring voters to support a candidate, and campaign excesses. The MOE also received nine reports of political intervention.
More alarming are the 10 reports of political violence, such as threats, attacks, and murders. According to the MOE, “Antioquia is the department with the largest number of reports of political violence and Medellin is the municipality most affected by this situation.”
The MOE also found rampant accusations of political candidates being supported by illegal armed groups. The NGO receiver 13 reports for candidates’ links to illegal armed groups.
Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar recently alleged that mayoral candidate Luis Perez’s current campaign was being closely supported by demobilized paramilitary Efrain Maldonado, who, according to Salazar, is “the boss of the whole paramilitary structure in the east central zone [of Medellin].”
Salazar’s accusation has also caused some trouble, resulting in several reports against the sitting mayor for violating an electoral law that prohibits officials from distributing propaganda for or against any party during elections. The mayor will be brought to trial for political intervention on November 3, the Thursday following the elections.
Mayor Salazar defended his decision to interfere in the elections on Thursday, citing his “constitutional and legal obligations as mayor.”
“I have peace of mind, of having acted in the search for the common good, within the framework of ethical principals and legality,” the mayor said.
“How can we allow those who have killed our people, that form the so-called boundaries of death [the borders between gang territories], that prevent children, youth and the general population from accessing essential services of the state, decide whom their victims should vote for,” Salazar asked.
The most recent survey from electoral pollsters Datexco show Perez’s support being halved over the month of October, dropping from 34% on October 4 to 17% in an October 27 poll.
Liberal Party candidate Anibal Gaviria’s support has steadily increased over the same time, rising from 39% at the beginning of the month to 42% in a poll released Thursday. However, Gaviria is not untainted; he has admitted that the druglord “El Cebollero” funded his campaign for governor in 2003, although he claims that he had no knowledge of the drug boss’ criminal activity.
The latest Gallup poll, which questioned voters on October 25 and 26, shows Gaviria and Perez in a statistical tie, each with about 33%. The poll also found that 61% of respondents held a favorable view of Gaviria and only 48% did for Perez.
“[These problems] have brought us to launch an S.O.S. for the democracy in Medellin, and to request the presence in the city of international Overseer Agencies and National Authorities that give assurance to citizens to assist and participate safely and transparently in the electoral event of next Sunday, October 30,” said the MOE.