A report released last week by an electoral observation organization showed that near one third of Colombia’s voting population face high or extremely high risk of electoral violence from threats to assassinations.
Colombia’s urban centers are in trouble for an upcoming 2014 elections cycle.
According to a report released by The Electoral Observation Mission (Mision de Obervacion Electoral – MOE), cities Bogota and Cartagena have a high risk of electoral violence approaching the March 9 congressional elections, while Medellin, Cali, and Baranquilla all were given a designation of extreme risk of electoral violence.
Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Baranquilla and Cartagena — Colombia’s five largest cities in order of descending population — together make up about 33% of the nation’s population of 47.7 million people.
Author of the startling data and results, MOE’s German Robayo agreed that this situation is very serious in a conversation with Colombia Reports.
“We’re looking at…threats, assassination attempts, and assassinations themselves,” explained Robayo, emphasizing that they are looking for areas where violence can affect outcomes of elections. This could mean violence against “mayors, legislators, city council members, or governors,” as well as candidates and voters.
Despite the high violence ratings in Colombia’s most populous areas, the initial report showed that the number of municipalities facing possibilities of voter violence dropped since 2010, while the possibility of violence against candidates has skyrocketed 172% since 2010.
Just late Wednesday, a congressional candidate from the conservative Christian MIRA political party was kidnapped by unknown assailants.
However, Robayo was quick to say that drops or increases in violence are not how he nor MOE see the issue.
“We say in terms of risk of violence that it is not good to have any risk of violence…because definitively, even a threat is a manifestation of violence. For us…whatever type of risk…it is totally negative for the 2014 elections,” the electoral expert asserted.
Robayo explained that his organization is working hard to provide security for candidates and voters alike. MOE is a part of the Electoral Security Commission, which is seeking to guarantee protection to citizens during elections and is made up of Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s office, Inspector General’s office, Ministry of the Interior, National Army, and the National Police.
“Our function is to anticipate and warn of risks,” he said of MOE’s role in this commission.
At the end of 2013 in anticipation of voter violence, fraud, coercion, etc. MOE released 22 proposals to try to “mitigate irregularities” with the electoral process.
That electoral process is exactly what MOE’s director Alejandra Barrios said their organization is aiming to “strengthen” approaching the second week of March.
However the fact that one third of Colombia’s voters remain at high risk or above for electoral violence, challenges how strong the status quo is.
“All of us are working to provide security and take the risks into account,” concluded Robayo.
Violence risk map
- Interview with German Robayo
- Interview with Alejandra Barrios
- “Riesgos electorales se incrementan en elecciones a Senado”: MOE