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Electoral shielding is urgent | The New Century

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Electoral shielding is urgent |  The New Century

* Violent groups threaten the campaign

* State must react firmly

Five months after the appointment at the polls to choose governors, mayors, deputies, councilors and mayors, the outlook for the campaign is not the best. The first warning bells were given weeks ago by the regional leaders, the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office and other national, regional and local authorities. They agreed that armed groups, especially the residual factions of the FARC, were trying to interfere in the proselytizing activity. The Government then decided to speed up the installation of the Electoral Guarantees Committee and announce the first security reinforcement measures in some regions, while asking parties and candidates to report any risk in order to provide them with due protection.

However, the situation, far from improving, has become more critical. It has not only been denounced that in some regions the factions derived from the FARC are forcibly imposing “codes of conduct” on the population, but also going to the extreme of “carnetizing” people from the villages. The ELN guerrillas, in turn, would also be issuing warnings in the areas where they commit crimes around the start of the electoral campaign. Added to all of this last weekend was the open threat launched by the FARC dissidents, now called the ‘Central General Staff’, that only aspirants authorized by that faction may proselytize in their areas of influence, vetoing almost from the start those who launch themselves in the name of what they call “traditional parties”.

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It is, without a doubt, a rather delicate situation. It must not be forgotten that these factions, according to the Ministry of Defense’s own statistics, would have no less than three or four thousand men-at-arms and would be present in localized territories of no less than twenty departments. Added to this is the fact that, in the framework of the troubled peace process that the Government has proposed to them, which even reached the improvised instance of a ceasefire (which the Executive suspended two weeks ago after the murder of four indigenous minors recruited by the force by that guerrilla), the so-called ‘EMC’ threatened to deepen its hostilities against the Public Force and the civilian population.

Although this difficult circumstance was already analyzed in this week’s session of the Electoral Guarantees Committee, and there both the Government and the Military and Police Forces, as well as the electoral organization, indicated that security measures will continue to be strengthened throughout the country, the truth is that not a few mayors and other authorities and local civil organizations warn that the scenario to carry out a political campaign is very complicated. In fact, the Ombudsman’s Office has already raised an alert with the OAS itself, whose Secretary General was visiting Colombia this week.

For now, it has already been heard in some areas that parties and candidates are inclined to hold proselytizing meetings and rallies in urban areas, restricting travel along sidewalks and villages where it is known that there is a risk of being intercepted by armed groups. illegal.

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But it is not the only danger that hangs over the contest for departmental and municipal executives and legislatures. In various areas there are growing reports of illegal financing of campaigns by local mafias and high-impact criminal gangs, such as the ‘Clan del Golfo’. Likewise, accusations against regional and local officials are beginning to multiply for allegedly intervening directly or indirectly in favor of this or that candidate or party. To this is added, that the alerts are on about what may happen in the coming weeks, when the signing of a last-minute avalanche of contracts is expected due to the exhaustion of the countdown for the entry into force of the Electoral Guarantees Law. It is no secret to anyone that these contractual auctions always give rise to high risks of corruption and administrative disheveledness, even more so in the case of governorships and mayoralties that are practically on their way out.

Five months before election day, it is clear that a more effective shock plan is urgently needed to guarantee safe and transparent elections. From Congress and the parties there are many bells that are being given to the Ministry of Defense to reinforce the so-called “democracy plan”. It is imperative to prevent the country from returning to those dark times where the violent put up and removed candidates, vetoed parties, forced voting, sabotaged it, and took over local administrations and their budgets with blood and fire.

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