Colombia’s police force came under attack on Tuesday after close allies of President Juan Manuel Santos accused the police of campaigning for Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the hard-line rival of the incumbent in the second round of elections.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
According to German Vargas, the running mate of Santos, members of the police force have been cited participating in politics in favor of Zuluaga, the candidate of former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party.
The running mate said that some policemen went as far as destroying the incumbent’s political propaganda while the force is supposed to stay neutral during elections.
“In all the states I go I receive from our political leaders complaints about harassment, reaching the extreme of destroying ‘Santista’ propaganda and constraining Santos voters in order to make them tell who they voted for or will vote for,” the running mate said.
Vargas’ accusation was backed up by Liberal ex-president Cesar Gaviria, Santos’ campaign manager, who also claimed that police in uniform have been handing out flyers for the Democratic Center.
“Never before in my political life have I seen the neutrality of the armed forces intervened in like this,” said Gaviria.
Following the Santos campaign allegations, police director General Rodolfo Palomino said he had yet to see evidence of police intervention in the race to the June 15 second-round run-off.
Palomino assured the public that his force is neutral and apolitical, and he treats police involvement in politics as an utmost priority with serious consequences.
“We are prepared to see if evidence exists,” said Palomino, adding that if the allegations are true, those involved will be removed from their positions.
Palomino additionally asked both campaigns to refrain from using the police force as a tool in political battles, as its job is to maintain a neutral stance and ensure the elections run smoothly and safely.
The 2014 election campaign has been marred by scandals that have pushed the candidates’ political proposals off the electoral agenda. While Santos came under fire in early May a drug lord’s US testimony arose over the alleged payment of $12 million to the president’s political strategist, Juan Jose Rendon.
One day later, prosecution officials raided an alleged clandestine wiretap operation. Zuluaga was subsequently embarrassed when a video leaked of him being informed on progress in the campaign by the hacker accused of having illegally wiretapped ongoing peace talks with the FARC.