Colombia’s military has warned of the possible use of violence by the country’s second largest armed rebel group to stop voters from participating in the second — and final — round of the national presidential elections, national media reported on Sunday.
According to Colombia’s military intelligence, ELN guerrilla members from the group’s Western War front have declared that “armed” roadblocks — designed to stop citizens from voting during the June 15 election — were to be set up in the western state of Choco from midnight Saturday June 14, La Patria newspaper reported.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
The statement by the military was followed by an announcement of Choco’s governor who said that electoral material had been burned by “illegal groups”, preventing around 8,000 people from voting.
ELN threatens voters
The ELN threat was alleged to be in an pamphlet being circulated among the local populations of Lloro, Bagado, Tado, Istmina, and other southern parts Choco, which stated that “Transit by air, land and waterways is prohibited. We call on all people not to vote.”
The pamphlets are now in the possession of the national police and the Prosecutor General, who are trying to determine their authenticity, according to Blu Radio.
The allegations come just days after the ELN rejected to joint Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, in a unilateral ceasefire for the presidential elections. However, the ELN promised “not to affect or interrupt” the electoral process on June 15.
A week from the elections, the ELN and Colombia’s government officially announced that both parties would begin peace negotiations, paralleling the government’s ongoing peace dialogue with the FARC.
General Leonardo Pinto, commander of the Seventh Army Division, ignored the ELN’s statement, stating that it was only meant to “intimidate a population,” and highlighted the large presence of security forces in place throughout the affected areas to ensure a peaceful election for citizens.
Nonetheless, all public transport from the neighboring state of Risaralda heading to Choco has been suspended in fear of the strikes, national station Caracol Radio reported.
Bismark Calimeño Mena, secretary of Choco, said that there is anxiety in the region, and that he will meet in the coming hours with the Departmental Security Council to ensure that the elections take place without incident, according to Blu Radio.
“The electoral judges are moving into place, and we will ask the national army to send helicopters to give us more peace and mobility on the roads,” said Calimeño.
Governor says electoral material burned
As Election Day unfolds, the governor of Choco, Efren Palacios, announced that voting material had been burned on election day by “ilegal groups,” stopping around 8,000 people in the municipalities of Alto Baudo, Novita, Medio San Juan and Simiti from taking part in the elections, RCN Radio reported.
The governor failed to place the blame a specific group, and claimed not to have the full details of the report.
“All the jurors and electoral delegates from the National Registry were traveling in that zone, they made them stop and are now the area of San Miguel, in the municipality of Medio San Juan, and they are not letting them keep going or come back,” Palacios said.