Left-wing councillor´s assassination raises questions for Colombian peace process
As Colombia moves towards a possible conclusion of fifty years of armed conflict, gunmen walked into a left-of-centre councillor´s home fired three shots and killed Gilberto Daza.
The councillor, who lived near the police station in the heavily militarized town of Sucre, Cauca, had been threatened many times before and had sought protection from political assassination.
This latest assassination of a left-wing politician has once again raised questions of whether a potential peace accord with Colombia´s FARC guerrillas could end the violence against those who seek social, economic and political change through politics rather than armed struggle.
A key part of the potential accord with the FARC being negotiated in Havana, Cuba allows for the guerrillas to return to political life in exchange for giving up armed struggle. A similar potential agreement in the 1990s fell apart when thousands of former guerrillas and left-wing politicians were assassinated during a national election campaign.
“The assassination of Polo Democrático councillor Gilberto Daza in Cauca demonstrates the absence of guarantees for the left in the political process,” Congressman Iván Cepeda said in a tweet. Cepeda, a member of the same political party, has been a fierce critic of former right-wing president Álvaro Uribe and is one of the most threatened Colombians.
Cepeda´s father, then also a congressman, was assassinated in that campaign of political genocide.
Polo Democrático presidential candidate Clara López demanded Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos provide better protection for politicians. She noted Daza was killed in his home near the Sucre police department.
Political violence – especially against left-wing candidates is a critical issue heading into 2014 as the national government attempts to negotiate an end to the 50 years of armed conflict with guerrillas. In 2014 Colombia will also hold elections for president, congress and the senate.
A Colombian authority which monitors politically motivated violence recently reported the Andean nation is victimized by an act of political violence on the average once every two days.
The study by the Misión de Observación Electoral found local councillors are the most often threatened politicians.
The study from Jan. 1, 2012 to Nov. 13, 2013 found 314 acts of political violence. Of those 85 per cent were threats, eight per cent were actual attacks, five per cent were murders and one per cent were kidnappings.
Daza had been a vocal opponent of large-scale mining in the area and of privatization of the water services, both of which could have attracted threats and violence.
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