Violence, death threats against the left grow by the day as Colombian elections intensify
Assassinations of community leaders, threats against candidates and paramilitary resurgence grow with each day as Colombia moves towards congressional and presidential elections.
Evidence mounts daily that the violence that has haunted the left for decades will once again be a significant part of the 2014 political landscape.
The rebirth of the Unión Patriótica – the political party created as part of the 1980s peace negotiations – is once again marred by death threats against its candidates. Presidential candidate Aída Abella said Tuesday that death threats against UP candidates by paramilitaries in Caqueta have been met with claims that the death squads no longer exist in Colombia
“It´s worrying that in Caqueta that the authorities claim the paramilitaries no long exist, but our candidates, especially (congressional candidate) Rosmery Londoño and leaders from San Vicente del Caguán, have been threatened by the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles),” Abella said in a statement published in Agencía Prensa Rural.
She said it is inappropriate that the Unión Patriótica which had thousands of members assassinated – including two presidential candidates – after it finished strongly in elections in the early 1990s once again must face such threats of violence. Abella herself fled Colombia for 17 years for exile in Switzerland after would-be assassins shot at her with a bazooka in the streets of Bogotá where she was elected as a city councillor for the Unión Patriótica.
Another left-wing party Polo Democrático also said it is facing rampant intimidation. Congressional representative Iván Cepeda, one of the most threatened politicians in Colombia, told Bogotá´s public television station Canal Capital that its entire slate of candidates has received death threats.
The left-wing social and political umbrella organization Marcha Patriótica – which is not running candidates in the elections – had another leader assassinated this week, bringing the number of its leaders assassinated in the last two years to 30. Most of the deaths have been in the last half of 2013 and in the early days of 2014.
Paramilitary activity is also resurging in Soacha, on the outskirt of Bogotá, where former president Álvaro Uribe recently received a frosty welcome and had tomatoes tossed in his direction. Protesters chanted that they had not forgotten the “false positives” scandal where thousands of Colombian youths were assassinated then passed off as FARC guerrillas to inflate military kill-statistics and eliminate leftists.
Many of the victims were dressed in FARC uniforms after they were shot to death in attempts to convince people that they were FARC soldiers killed in combat. In many cases, however, there were no holes in the uniforms to match the wounds in the victims´ bodies.
Paramilitaries have recently sent a chilling reminder to Soacha citizens that they are returning to continue their work. After the former president – who has often been accused of links to paramilitaries – received his rough reception, the paramilitaries posted notices around town notifying citizens of the “need” for another “social cleansing”. It warned the “cleansing” would target criminals, drug dealers and gays in the streets, bars and brothels. Such notices often precede killings of left-wing activists.
The Marcha Patriótica also complained Tuesday that many protesters who booed Uribe during a campaign stop in Cucuta, on the Venezuelan border, last week were brutalized by police.
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