Ahead of Colombia's elections, violence stalks candidates
Forty-one candidates have been killed in the run-up to Colombia's elections on Sunday, highlighting the security issues that continue to undermine democracy in the country.
Colombia has seen 41 candidates killed in the run-up to the local elections, in an explosion of violence that does not bode well for the progress of democracy in the country.Skip to next paragraph
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Local politics is a deadly business in Colombia, even, or especially, in its small towns. Liberal candidate Luis Gonzalo Martinez was seen as promising contender for mayor of Magui Payan, in Nariño. His profile was boosted by his maverick platform and promises to clean up one of Colombia’s poorest and most violent regions. But he lacked the support of the illegal armed groups that vye for control of this strategic coca-producing province, and was gunned down while campaigning in a dangerous neighborhood on October 14, just over two weeks ahead of the October 30 vote.
As with so many other candidates murdered during the current election season, it is not known who killed Mr. Martinez. What is known, however, is that the area is host to nearly all of the major armed actors in the country, including the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) as well as neo-paramilitary groups like the Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras. Over the past several months, these groups and others have been responsible for a wave of election-related violence across the country.
IN PICTURES: Colombia's FARC rebels
According to a report released this week by the independent Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), 41 candidates and potential nominees have been killed since the electoral process began in February of this year. Most of the victims are at the local as opposed to the department level, among them 24 town councilor candidates, 15 mayoral candidates, and two "ediles," (neighborhood representatives). Perhaps because of their greater resources and stronger security details, no candidates for governor have been killed, although a gubernatorial contender from Guajira was shot at a rally on October 9.
In total, the MOE has recorded 159 “violent incidents,” which include the killings as well as 23 attempted murders, seven kidnappings, and 88 death threats over the course of this year. As indicated in the map on the original post, the two departments which saw the most election-related violence in the past eight months were Antioquia and Valle del Cauca, which witnessed 7 and 12 assassinations, respectively. Both departments are focal points for both the armed conflict and criminal activity, which has taken a toll on the electoral process.
Of the 147 municipalities in which the MOE documented political violence against candidates, the organization found that 39 of them have a significant presence of one or more armed group. Antioquia and Valle del Cauca were also the departments with the most overlap between violence and armed groups, suggesting that it is these groups, and not common criminals, that are the real drivers of the political violence.