The most recent report of the Electoral Observatory Mission (MOE) ‘Map and Electoral Risk Factors’ indicates that 319 Colombian municipalities are at risk due to factors of violence for this electoral year.
Versions of candidates, authorities and analysts give an account of small points in village or border areas mainly to which many prefer not to go for security, while Elsewhere there have been direct threats against people who want to campaign for the March 13 elections.
The Ministry of Defense established a risk map that counts 55 municipalities which it calls priority and attention for possible acts of violence.
However, the EOM also points out that in 131 municipalities in 13 departments both factors of violence and electoral fraud coincide; 49 of these municipalities are at extreme risk.
“Despite the signing of the Peace Agreement with the FARC, other illegal armed groups and ex-guerrilla dissidents continue to have influence in a large number of the municipalities” , indicates the report.
The map also shows that in 650 municipalities there is some level of risk due to forced displacement, while 57 municipalities are at extreme risk due to massive displacement.
Candidates They have stated that criminal groups extort money from many in order to support their search for votes.
Luis Ernesto Olave, human rights defender and current candidate for the House of Representatives in Chocó, points out that a group known as ‘Los Mexicanos’ charges up to 20 million pesos to carry out campaign, especially in the north of Quibdó.
“There are many threats to alternative or less traditional parties –explains Luis Ernesto–. On the San Juan River, the ELN has been fighting for two years with the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) and that has confined entire populations, they don’t even have voting tables there.”
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Olave assures that many citizens who are on the banks of the San Juan River had to travel up to 10 hours by boat to be able to register your identity card, as the Registrar’s Office did not take the registration tables to these points.
On the Atrato River, on the border with Vigía del Fuerte, in Antioquia, the dissidents and the AGC are in a war that prevents the mobilization of the candidates.
In coastal areas, such as Bahía Solano, the ‘Gulf clan’ has even prevented the distribution or posting of political advertising flyers in the area.
“The only way we have found to reach people is thanks to social networks –Olave confesses–. Many are afraid to try to campaign there, because these groups do not allow anything political in their points.”
In Baudó, the entry of the Eln has also generated fear for the mobilization of the campaigns.
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A similar situation is experienced in the Eje Cafetero, where the coordinator of the National Table of Victims, Eisenhower Zapata, assures that the expansion of the Farc ‘Adán Izquierdo’ dissidence has generated fear among the campaigns .
“This group is looking to expand and has a strong presence in the center and north of the Valley –explains the lawyer–. There are already early warnings for threats to councilors in Dosquebradas, La Virginia, Santa Rosa de Cabal, Quinchía and Mistrató. Many candidates for the Chamber have had friction, especially in Santa Rosa de Cabal.”
According to the lawyer and human rights defender, the tendency to attack the so-called alternative lists has also been registered in municipalities of Caldas, such as La Dorada, Samaná and Riosucio.
On the sides of Quindío there have been reports of pressure from armed groups in Génova, Córdoba, Calarcá and Buenavista.
“Lo which is Montenegro and La Tebaida, in Quindío, have also suffered the arrival of ‘Left Adán’ because they border the Valley –says Zapata–. Also those that border Huila and Tolima, where the presence of dissidents is strong.” , the crime that shocked Cali 48 years ago
On Tolima, experts pointed out alerts in rural areas of the municipalities of Rioblanco, Planadas and Chaparral, where there are 11 of the 22 candidates in the region with threats to carry out any displacement and campaign.
This, according to authorities, would be the work of the FARC dissidents. The Ombudsman’s Office has already issued several alerts, in addition, there is a call for community radio stations to be allowed to carry out the work of broadcasting campaigns, since threats have also been registered.
Meanwhile, in Huila, historically The rural part of Algeciras has been talked about as one of the points of greatest care by the authorities, but its inhabitants maintain that there have been no direct threats against candidates or against the electoral process.
The clashes between the ‘Gulf clan’ and other structures such as the Eln, FARC dissidents, ‘Pelusos’ , AGC and other structures have taken over 370 municipalities in the country according to information from the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares), a situation that puts the carrying out of these campaigns at risk.
“The EOM recommends that authorities make a presence through Electoral Monitoring Commissions, exten given to lists and candidates in order to preventively attend to the situations of these municipalities”, recommends the report.
On the other hand, the report explains that only between the pre-electoral period of March 13 From 2021 to January 13, 2022, there were 307 victims of threats, 2 of kidnapping, 4 of disappearance, 56 of attack and 81 of murder if political, social and community leaders are taken into account.
The EOM points out that compared to the 2018 elections, when there were 310 municipalities at risk of violence, this year it increased by 2.9 percent. A variation that is not very high, but it worries analysts.
Of the 319 municipalities that must be monitored, 68 of them are at extreme risk.
Luis Trejos, a professor at the Universidad del Norte, in Barranquilla, points out that the Caribbean has around five spaces with a high presence of criminal gangs that they hinder the electoral exercise “not only because they prohibit the offer or proselytism, but also because they would prevent the Registry from taking ballot boxes to the districts.”
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Trejos assures that one of these is the Sierra Nevada, where he knows about this problem in Ciénaga and up to Dibulla (La Guajira), passing through Santa Marta.
“In this area, Conquistadors from the Sierra Nevada with the AGC –explains Trejos–. In fact, there are candidates who complain about not being able to climb to the middle and upper parts of the Sierra because they are banned.”
There have also been problems in carrying out an electoral campaign in the Montes de María, where residents in the rural area of ??Sucre maintain that members of the ‘Gulf clan’ have called meetings to tell peasants who to vote for.
“Violence in this part of theCaribbean is between the AGC and the ‘Gulf clan’ –assures Trejos–. Here, in the South of Córdobaand South of Bolívar, where the ELN and the dissidents of the 37th Front are already entering, there is a fierce war for territorial control that prevents candidates can campaign. Not only for security, but also for direct threats.”
The EOM report grouped the following regions within the risk analysis for both violence and electoral fraud: Catatumbo, in Norte de Santander; Arauca; southern Bolívar and the subregion of Northeast Antioquia; Chocó constituency; Orinoquía and the Amazon; lower Putumayo; Pacific Coast and Nariño.
Direct and indirect violence against political campaigns is higher in rural areas. However, there have been reports of extortion of candidates to enter neighborhoods in capital cities.
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In the Cúcuta metropolitan area, for example, they denounce the presence of the ‘Gulf clan’, a reason that has generated the absence of candidates in several Corrections.
Furthermore, according to a complaint made by Wilfredo Cañizal, director of the NGO Progresar, in Puerto Santander, 40 minutes from Cúcuta, there is no proselytizing for the war that the ELN and the AGC support.
“The ‘Gulf clan’ is tied up with the ELN and the AGC –says Cañizal-. In Puerto Santander they have prohibited meetings of this type. In addition, in communes 6, 7 and 8 of Cúcuta, people cannot meet at night because armed men have been seen patrolling.”
For this human rights defender, the electoral landscape in Norte de Santander has historically been complex in points such as the Catatumbo region, where clashes between the 33 and 41 of the FARC dissidents have generated fear of the candidates in Tibú, El tarra, Convención, El Carmen, Teorama, San Calixto and, above all, Ábrego.
“We know that in Tibú the 33rd front threatened two leaders of the Conservative party – denounces Cañizal -. Historically, it has not been possible to campaign in this municipality without the consent of the armed group that controls it. But today the situation is complex because there is a readjustment in control and dissidences, Eln and ‘Pelusos’ are facing each other”.
Esteban Salazar Giraldo, coordinator of Peer Democracy and Governance, agrees that the figures of the Government may be inaccurate due to the multiple complaints that have been received.
One of the cases is that of Putumayo, where several candidates for the House of Representatives have reported that armed groups are putting pressure on citizens and not allowing them to campaign.
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Colonel Roberto Marín, commander of the Putumayo Police, pointed out that in this department the presence of the dissidents of the 48th Front and their confrontation with the Carolina Ramírez bloc can mainly affect the campaign activity in areas bordering Solano, in Caquetá, which are Puerto Guzmá n and Puerto Leguizamón.
“We don’t have any direct complaints, but we know the complexity of security in the area, on the Caquetá River –assures the colonel–. The authorities are ready for the candidates to have security”.
Regarding Caquetá, authorities maintain that in the rural area of ??Cartagena del Chairá and San Vicente the candidates do not attend the campaign for fear of the armed groups that have historically been present in these sectors .
In the Amazon, inhabitants of Puerto Nariño denounce that on the border area with Peru, on the Amazon River, at the confluence with the Atacuari River and on the Loretoyacu River, in the last communities such as Tipisca there is a high drug-trafficking movement that prevents displacement for security reasons, since there is talk of territorial control by a group called ‘The Mexicans’. However, there is no mention of threats or confrontations.
On the other hand, in Vaupés , the passage of the ‘Armando Ríos’ front has not prevented candidates from going to visit the communities, especially in the north of the department, in areas surrounding to the Isana River, which comes from Guainía.
The candidates in this department of the Amazon try not to get too close to the border points with Brazil, such as the municipality of Taraira. This is why, according to residents of Mitú, the capital of the department, the communities are the ones that travel to talk with the candidates in urban areas.
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Precautions are also recorded in the Eastern Plains. Nilson Arana, candidate for the Senate, assures that the candidates try not to go to the south of Meta, such as Vistahermosa, Macarena and Uribe, due to the high presence of dissidents from the FARC and the ‘Gulf clan’.
In the south of Vichada, in Cumaribo, at the point that borders Guaviare and Guainía, the inhabitants of the area bordering the Guaviare river state that the passage of FARC dissidents about the sector could be the highest risk factor for candidates.
In La Paz, Guaviare, residents speak of “vaccines” to carry out campaigns, but authorities confirm that the public order situation is proceeding normally.
The upsurge in violence has touched points such as the Nariño Pacific, where authorities point out that municipalities such as Policarpa, Leiva, Cumbitara and El Rosario are on alert. In this place, the presence on the Western Cordillera of the ‘clan del Golfo’ stands out, in front of ‘Carlos Patiño’, mobile column ‘Jaime Martínez’ and Cordillera Sur.
In Buenos Aires, north of Cauca, an area with high indigenous presence, the situation for its inhabitants and those who want to campaign politically is almost restricted.
The municipal administration has decided to decree a curfew for minors,
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In fact, Cauca is the department most affected by violence against political and social leaders according to reports from the Electoral Observatory Mission (MOE).
According to the records, between March 13, 2021 and January 13, This year, in Cauca, Caldono, Argelia and Buenos Aires, mainly, more than 30 percent of the violent acts and threats have been registered.
Diego Alejandro Rubiano, coordinator of the Political Observatory of the MOE, clarifies that compared to the 2018 electoral process, there is an increase of 63.1 percent in terms of acts of violence in general and it is a fact which may be increasing.
Antioquia is another department that registers 28 attacks and 19 murders. Municipalities that make up Bajo Cauca are the most affected to carry out a campaign.
In Boyacá, authorities say that since November last year mayors from the north of the department have denounced intimidation by armed groups . However, they explain that the low number of politicians in the area is due to the remoteness of these municipalities and not because of threats from criminal gangs.
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Cubará, on the border with Arauca, is the municipality that is on alert due to the situation on the border with the armed confrontations that do not let up in this part of the country.
The political scientist Julio Acela, director of the Citizen Observatory of Santander, points out that in this department the politicians do not They go to rural areas of Puerto Wilches and Sabana de Torres for fear of the armed groups that guard the drug trafficking movement that comes from South Bolívar.
“For many years no politician has dared to reach points in the Middle Magdalena from Puerto Wilches –says Acela–. They are areas where the ELN has made alliances with drug trafficking groups and nobody comes close to doing politics.”
According to the expert, also in neighborhoods of the metropolitan area of ??Bucaramanga, such as commune 14, in Piedecuesta or Floridablanca crime does not allow anyone to campaign unless they pay extortion .
“It is known that these situations occur in thenorth of Bucaramanga, also in Girón and even in Barrancabermeja –says the political scientist–. This area that borders Boyacá also has the presence of armed groups.”