Colombia’s interior minister said Friday the country’s authorities have everything in place to guarantee safety and order during Sunday’s local elections that have been preceded by violence and attempts by illegal armed groups to influence the outcome.
Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras and Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said in a press conference in Medellin that 99% of the country’s 10,271 polling stations will be secured by more than 330,000 members of the security forces.
Pinzon en Vargas Lleras on Saturday will finish a four-day “Tour of Colombia” during which the officials inspected the implementation of the government’s “Democracy Plan” that is to secure honest and safe elections.
But despite the national government’s apparent efforts to guarantee safe elections, electoral observers continue to warn for violence, fraud and corruption in the hours leading up the opening of the polling stations 8AM Sunday.
Since February, 41 candidates have been assassinated and 88 have received death threats, said the non-governmental Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) in its latest report. The organization particularly stressed the “critical” situation in Colombia’s second largest city Medellin due to “the presence of armed actors, the intensification of the conflict reflected by individual and mass displacement, the restriction of the campaigning in certain neighborhoods, the serious indications of illegal support for candidates and the complaints of political interference by officials.”
The country’s Inspector General confirmed to newspaper El Tiempo that “many” campaigns are funded by criminal money and reiterated that the registration of 700,000 identity cards were canceled because of indications the persons were registering in a different municipality than their own to be able to vote there.
Colombia’s vice Prosecutor General told Caracol Radio that corrupt campaigns plan to use minors to commit electoral crimes. The public prosecution said it will have some 3,660 inspectors present at polling station and has formed mobile patrols to check the remaining polling stations.
61 foreign observers will be present in different parts of the country to oversee the elections while the MOE deployed dozens of observers to the 1,102 municipalities where voting will be taking place.
More than 30 million Colombians are allowed to vote for mayors, governors, deputies, council members and local administrative boards Sunday.