The population of Colombians living in Fundacion, in the northern state of Magdalena, have abstained from voting in Sunday’s presidential election in large numbers after a local bus exploded last week, killing 32 of the community’s children.
In 2014, the voter turnout in Fundacion was 28.05% of the electorate, compared with a 2010 figure of 41.56%. This is a 13.51% drop between the two presidential elections.
This a low turnout, even compared to the already low whole-of-state figure for Magdelena, where 857,502 people are eligible to vote at 347 polling stations and only 270,021 people (31.5%) voted on Sunday.
According to Caracol Radio, the people of Magdalena have been committed to exercising their democratic rights on election days in years past, rising early and appearing at the voting booths en masse. This year is different: the Magdalena bus tragedy and subsequent loss of life has affected the entire community’s psyche, and led to a mass refusal to cast their presidential vote.
President promises to help victims’ families, but loses vote
The week following the blaze, President Juan Manuel Santos, flew to the municipality of Fundacion on Monday where the accident took place and announced that the government of Colombia will compensate and provide psychological support for those closest to the victims of the accident. Each family is also to receive compensation of approximately $6000.
Several of the victims’ family members reportedly asked the President during his visit why the use of unlicensed vehicles had been permitted, according to Bogota’s Santa Fe Radio. However, Fundacion was the only municipality in Magdalena where Juan Manuel Santos lost.
Bus blaze investigated
The tragedy occurred last Sunday, when a bus transporting children back from church caught fire. Although a few children managed to escape, the majority of young passengers on board burned to death.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown, with authorities currently investigating, but one witness told French press agency AFP that the driver had walked away from the vehicle to buy a drink and asked the children to put gas in the vehicle, after which the bus caught fire.
The driver of the bus, who was allegedly driving without a licence, and the pastor who hired the bus, are both charged with the crime of negligent homicide for which the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 60 years, according to solicitor Mauricio Ramierz when speaking with AFP. It should also be noted the pastor’s daughter was allegedly one of the bus victims.
- Abstencionismo en la jornada electoral reina en el municipio de Fundacion (Caracol Radio)
- Poblacion de Fundacion se niega a votar tras la tragedia(El Espectador)
- Alto abstencionismo en Fundacion, luego de la tragedia (Terra Colombia)