Liberal Senator Juan Manuel Galan Thursday explained how criminal organizations plan to influence the upcoming elections on October 30 based on firsthand testimony from demobilized combatants.
According to El Espectador, informers told Senator Galan and Colombia’s Ombudsman that drug-trafficking organizations and other criminal groups, which Galan and other government officials collectively refer to as “bacrim,” are working to extend their reach by “trying to undo the State in regions they control.”
The key is to control which mayor gets elected into office. Criminal organizations need a mayor “who fails to denounce us, to insist that everything is in order so as not to attract the attention of the government. The mayor also serves to maintain control of the police.”
For “bacrim” groups, the main interest “is not the budget of the municipality, but that the mayor and council members collaborate. The mayor can send security forces to certain zones where there are rival bands and help us kick them out.”
According to informers, each criminal group’s urban boss is in charge of public relations. Prior to an election, they search for a candidate who will promote the gang’s interests.
“For those that will help us, we provide money and votes,” one informer said. “He who does not want to collaborate with us or insists on affecting the group’s [interests], dies.” The boss gives the order on who to vote for, and everyone involved in the electoral process is expected to comply.
Money and food is exchanged for votes, an informer added. Anyone working the voting booths is also expected to help the process. All illicit electoral activity occurs under a “pact of silence.”
“He who does not help is threatened or killed. Whoever does not help us, is against us.”
According to Senator Galan, investigations into these electoral crimes have long been forestalled.
“We asked the Prosecutor General’s Office how many prosecutors were ordered for electoral crimes investigations, and the response has not been received. There is not even an Electoral Crimes Unit, and only after this election will there be a criminology handbook for them.”
“We asked for reports from the Regional Ombudsman in Valle, Antioquia, Casanare and Nariño, and only received one response,” he said. “And we asked for the names of the registrars since 1996 in high-risk areas and the response has not yet arrived.”
“What is to be said is that these types of officials have long been in regions that have been co-opted by these [criminal] organizations,” Senator Galan concluded.