EFE Agency, EL ESPECTADOR, February 13, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The figures were revealed by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, which painted a picture of the violence confronting this country as we approach elections for the congress, and for the presidency.

It’s only a month until the legislative elections take place in Colombia, next March 13, and 163 victims of political violence have been reported. That includes 19 candidates and politicians that have been murdered, as was reported this Sunday by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares).

Starting on March 13, 2021, when the countdown to elections to the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies began, they scrutinized the numbers and they found that there had been 124 violent acts against 163 individuals, resulting in 19 homicides. Nonetheless, that is a lower number than those for the departmental and municipal elections in 2019, when Pares reported 230 victims in 177 acts of violence, of which three out of every ten were people belonging to the opposition to the governing party.

The Foundation reports that there is “a sustained dynamic of increasing violence since September of 2021. The last five months were the most violent we have seen so far in the monitoring we did,” even though December and January were not the most violent months. However, in those two most recent months “some of the events were much more serious than the ones that took place before November of 2021. Examples were a fire set in the home of the Mayor of El Charco, a municipality in southeast Nariño Department, this February 4, or the discovery of an explosive device, that failed to detonate, in a house used for Commons Party events in Bogotá. Commons is the Party that is made up of former FARC combatants.

There were also two attacks on Deputies in Chocó, a department in the northern Pacific area of Colombia. Explosives were launched in the direction of their homes on January 7 and January 9, and all of the members of the Assembly of the department were threatened in pamphlets.

Profiles of the victims

Four of every ten victims were elected public officials. The Council members were the most affected, with 19 cases, followed by Mayors (15 cases), Deputies (13 cases), Senators (11 cases), and Governors (7 cases). The second most victimized profile was members of political parties (with 14 cases), and journalists (13 cases), and then the candidates for the Chamber and the Senate.

The majority of the people that were threatened or killed (51) are members of the governing party, both local and national, while there were 39 victims belonging to opposition parties, including the leftist Humane Colombia—led at the national level by Gustavo Petro—the group with the most victims, followed by the Conservative Party and the Green Alliance.

Patronage policies

In 70% of the cases of political violence reported by Pares, it has not been possible to determine which person or group is behind the incidents. But in the other 30%, the groups that have emerged after the extinction of the FARC guerrillas are the principal guilty parties, followed by the paramilitaries like the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia or the Clan del Golfo.

“In Colombia, electoral violence has been tied not just to local dynamics of armed conflict and crime, but also to dynamics of political patronage and corruption,” warns Pares in its fourth report, Violence and Electoral Dynamics; “there are sophisticated mechanisms of corruption,” among political clans and groups outside the law—heirs of the “parapolitica”—who “channel every kind of corruption to promote multimillionpeso patronage machinery in their regions.”

The risks in the “peace seats”

In the March 13 elections, the zones most affected by the conflict are to choose, for the first time, their own representatives who are also victims of the conflict, in the so-called “peace seats”. However, this election is also stained with risks, because these continue to be areas affected by the conflict. On many occasions there continue to be illegal armed organizations, illegal economies, and “democratic cooptation by political clans.” In the 16 Peace seats there is a “presence of, at least, 33 clans, and among those there are signs that 7 of them are trying to coopt the candidates” for the Peace seats, Pares warned.

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