Colombia’s election authorities are under fire after multiple claims of widespread fraud in legislative elections in March.
Anti-corruption candidate Gustavo Petro urged his followers to mobilize and “keep an eye on the votes” on May 27 when the country holds presidential elections.
The escalation followed alleged fraud discovered by Fundacion Paz y Reconciliacion that resulted in the alteration of between 10% and 20% of the votes in March, according to the think tank.
Registrar Juan Carlos Galindo, who was already under fire over irregularities in the March 11 vote, said the NGO showed a “lack of respect” to his authority and said the fraud alert was “wrong.”
The think tank’s claim, however, was supported by the influential Senator Armando Benedetti (U Party), who said that in one in five election jurors was fake and sought “to manipulate the voting count” in the Atlantico province.
Some 4,000 of the 20,000 employees assigned by companies to work as jurors “did not have a social security number,” which makes the verification of their identity impossible, according to Benedetti.
The companies introduced the fake employees “to become jurors and manipulate the elections,” the senator said.
Galindo initially rejected also Benedetti’s claim, but announced an investigation after a phone call from the senator, who said he has been investigating the alleged fraud since the March 11 elections.
Although these types of facts are the responsibility of the prosecution, and the control and surveillance bodies, the information that the Registrar’s Office may provide on this comparing of databases may constitute an important input for any investigations that the competent authority may have to carry out, if proven true.
Juan Carlos Galindo
Fraud of this alleged scale has not been reported in Colombia since 2006 when dozens of politicians teamed up with feared paramilitary groups in order to be elected.
Electoral observers had already complained about the national registry’s failure to fix the security flaws in the electronic vote-counting system that allowed the deletion of more than 250,000 votes in the 2014 legislative elections.
Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, who made the terrorist interference in the elections public in 2004, called on his supporters to “defeat the fraud of [President Juan Manuel] Santos and the Registrar to favor [rival candidate German] Vargas.”
The anti-corruption candidate called on his followers to “fill the public squares of all the country’s towns” at 4PM when polls close on May 27 and “keep an eye on the votes.”