Colombia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs announced Monday that additional security measures have been implemented to protect opposition politicians, in light of the death threats issued against leaders of social movements and left-wing political parties by one of Colombia’s largest neo-paramilitary organizations.
The National Protection Unit’s (UNP) extra security measures come in response to a pamphlet emailed over the weekend to various members of left-wing political parties the Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica – UP) and the Patriotic March (Marcha Patriotica – MP) and the Mesa Agropecuaria Popular de Interlocución y Acuerdos (MIA) farmers movement, supposedly by members of the country’s formerly most powerful criminal organization, “Los Rastrojos.”
The pamphlet offers a reward of between $5,000 and $25,000 for the assassination of a number of presidential and congressional candidates, including presidential candidate Aida Avella of the recently reformed UP party, former Senator and MP founder Piedad Cordoba, and the Secretary General of the Colombian Communist Party, Jaime Caycedo.
Also on Los Rastrojos’ death list is MP party Spokesman and Colombian Communist Party Central Executive Committee Member Carlos Lozano, who spoke to Colombia Reports on Monday about the government’s newest security proposals.
“This isn’t a problem that can be resolved with general and superficial declarations, not even with more security measures or escorts like the government thinks,” said Lozano. “This is a political problem that the government needs to address.”
Lozano condemned the government’s alleged involvement with neo-paramilitary groups such as Los Rastrojos, citing a new phone-tapping scandal against left-wing political parties and describing the UNP’s actions as necessary but insufficient.
“I think that the measures provided by the UNP are positive and must be accepted, and of course they’re most willing to help and strengthen the security systems,” Lozano said.
“But this is insufficient if not accompanied by a political decision by the government to strengthen democracy, to make sure this is truly [a way to] peace.”
Lozano drew a link between the present situation and the political persecution suffered by the UP during the 1980s and 1990s, during which thousands of their members were systematically murdered by a combination of state forces, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. The comparison has become newly relevant in recent weeks, with a gruesome incident of alleged police abuse against a Communist Party member and the announcement by MP founder Piedad Cordoba that her party may have to disband due to the apparent targeting of party members for assassination.
“We hope for a climate and environment more favorable for this electoral campaign,” said Lozano, referring to upcoming congressional and presidential elections in March and May, respectively. “The government must forcefully decide on a policy of persecution and submission against these paramilitary groups which continue to exist in the country — and [whose existence] the government denies by reducing them to ‘criminal organizations,’ while they’re the same paramilitary groups with links to the Armed Forces, security forces, and regional authorities and politicians.”
“Everyone is condemning and repulsed by this situation, and is requesting full guarantees from the government.”
Earlier Monday, Colombian Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora called on authorities to investigate the authenticity of the pamphlet in question, while condemning the act as a “pitiful show of violence” and an “assault on not only the right to life of the candidates, but to the free exercise of democracy in Colombia,” reported Colombian radio station Radio Santa Fe.
According to the UNP, security measures have already been taken in 248 of the 273 requests currently being processed by the agency.
- Interview with Carlos Lozano
- Rechazo absoluto de Mininterior a las amenazas contra Unión Patriótica, la Marcha Patriótica y la Mesa Agropecuaria Popular de Interlocución y Acuerdos –MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs)
- Gobierno responde ante amenazas a Aída Avella y líderes de izquierda (El Tiempo)
- Defensor repudia panfletos amenazantes contra dirigentes de izquierda (Radio Santa Fe)