The Caribbean town of Soledad, sadly dubbed Colombia’s “election fraud capital,” took to the polls on Sunday, but under strict supervision from electoral observers in an attempt to end the common practice of vote-buying.
Soledad has had major problems in the past with both the congressional and presidential elections in 2010 being tainted by fraud, particularly through exchanging votes for money, construction material or food.
According to local newspaper El Universal, such voter manipulation in the 2010 election consisted of “scholarships for primary school children” and “cash in hand promises” for their votes.
This concept of votes being a commodity in Soledad is key as 80% of the city’s citizens live under the poverty line. Therefore, a $5 bribe is an irresistible opportunity for many Soledad voters.
This buying and selling of votes was made particularly easy by the fact that there was only one police officer for every 2,018 people during the last national election, according to observers of the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE). Such low numbers create a lack of available security to prevent fraud in an election lead up, the MOE said.
Electoral manipulation has come in many forms in Soledad; Another key problem in the 2010 election was the false registration of voters. For example, one local restaurant had 154 voters registered as employees, where only two voters were proven to be employed, and the company Transmercer supposedly had 194 employees who were registered voters but in reality only had 8 employees.
Electoral observers raised the alarm when finding out that voter registrations in Soledad stood at 16.4%, as opposed to an average 7% for the rest of Colombia.
Due to Soledad’s controversial election history, the MOE named Soledad as a municipality at extreme risk of electoral fraud for 2014 elections implementing 6,174 observers.
Soledad’s municipality had 254,776 eligible voters across 735 polling stations.
The MOE has also worked in election build up to update the out of date electoral roll by removing 100,000 out of date names and documents. Important as the votes of dead citizens have been used in the past to manipulate election outcome.
Ruth Maria Escobar, delegate of the Electoral Organization Atlantico, told local media that 1,854 locals were employed by the observation mission to oversee the biometric voter checks to prevent a person voting more than once. The majority of observers were centered in Soledad.
“We are focused, there is a whole plan organized by the authorities and all will be well ,” stated Escobar.
Mayor Elsa Noguera ensured that authorities would put posts near each polling station where voters could report any suspected fraud, with delegates from the Inspector General, the Ombudsman and the Prosecutor General’s Offices.
Electoral fraud is a problem which has diminished greatly between the 2010 and 2014 elections with Minister of the Interior, said Aurelio Iragorri. According to the minister, this election saw 90% less violence while 83% of Colombia saw no election-related violence at all.
- Compra y venta de votos en las elecciones, preocupa a la OEA (El Universal)
- Elecciones en Soledad (MOE)
- Corrupción electoral mina a Soledad (El Heraldo)
- Soledad (Atlántico) es ‘rosario’ de problemas (El Tiempo)
- ¿Por qué se varó la consulta conservadora en Soledad, Atlántico? (La Silla Vacia)
- Soledad, el municipio más vigilado por delitos electorales (El Tiempo)
- Soledad, la cuna del fraude electoral (El Espectador)
- Soledad, Barranquilla y El Peñón, entre los 200 municipios con riesgo de fraude electoral: MOE (RCN Radio)
- “Disminuyen 90% acciones de grupos armados al margen de la ley durante la jornada electoral” (CM&)