Five months ahead of Colombia’s local elections, political violence already surpassed that of 2015 vote

(Image: National Registrar)

With five months to go to Colombia’s local elections in October, electoral observers said on Wednesday that violence levels have already surpassed that of the 2015 elections.

According to the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), there have been 74 acts of aggression against local and regional political leaders, including 10 homicides.

Additionally, 52 social leaders who generally have great influence over communities in local elections, were also killed, MOE president Alejandra Barrios told Caracol Radio.

It is important that the 16 political parties and movements that will participate in the local elections, together with the authorities on all territorial levels, provide security guarantees for political participation. When social leaders are targeted, democracy and politics in our country are also targeted.

MOE president Alejandra Barrios

Violence against political leaders

Source: Electoral Observation Mission

The MOE’s early warning followed that of The Peace of Reconciliation Foundation (PARES), which said last month that violence against aspiring elected officials and sitting officials saw a significant increase over the past few months.

The upcoming local elections are the first in which the FARC, until 2016 a guerrilla group, participates. The former guerrillas have already lost more than 125 of its members, but it is uncertain whether this is related to their political participation.

FARC politicans fear for their safety in run-up to first local elections since Colombia’s peace deal

What concerns the MOE is that the violence, which reached record lows in the 2018 national elections, began almost immediately after the formal start of the election year in October, MOE analyst Camilo Vargas told newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.

More than anything, the violence began earlier. The election year for us began last October 27, exactly a year before the elections. It has reached a higher level of violence than we recorded four years ago.

MOE analyst Camilo Vargas

As feared, the violence that according to the Ombudsman’s Office has killed more than 460 social leaders over the past three year is now also targeting political leaders aspiring election in October.

The most violent provinces are Cauca, where 10 politicians were killed and another 10 received death threats, Antioquia with seven murder victims and eight threatened politicians and La Guajira where 14 politicians received death threats.

The violence is affecting parties from all sides of the political spectrum, the MOE said.

Between October 27 and April 28… we counted 144 victims among all the leaders, including social leaders, we analyzed. Of those, 51 can be determined to have political affiliation because they are elected officials in the name of a party or because their affiliation is public… What we see is that it is diverse, all parties are affected.

MOE analyst Camilo Vargas

Political parties most affected by violence

  1. Liberal Party
  2. Green Alliance
  3. Radical Change
  4. Conservative Party
  5. U Party
  6. Democratic Pole
  7. Democratic Center

Source: Electoral Observation Mission

The MOE said that it expected violence to increase as the October 27 elections, in which Colombians elect mayors, governors, deputies and members of city councils, come closer.

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