Colombian gangsters offer rewards for the assassination of Union Patriotica leader Aída Abella, all UP candidates
The rebirth of Colombia´s Unión Patriotica has taken an ominous turn now that one of the country´s organized crime gangs has offered rewards for the assassination of its leaders, including presidential candidate Aída Abella.
Los Rastrojos, a deadly drug trafficking gang, has distributed pamphlets that order its members to “neutralize Unión Patriótica candidates for the senate and congress in all of the country.” It offers a reward of 50 million Colombian pesos, about $28,000 Canadian.
A number of candidates are named including presidential candidate Aída Abella who has only recently returned from 17 years in exile after surviving being shot at with a bazooka in the streets of Bogotá.
Rewards are offered for her assassination, all other Unión Patriótica candidates, as well as Piedad Córdoba, the leader of a massive social peace organization known as Marcha Patriótica. Córdoba recently said her organization was facing possible extinction because of the murder of some 30 of its community leaders in the past two years, most of them in the last seven months.
The Unión Patriótica is running in its first election campaign since being reinstated as a political party. It was originally formed in the mid-1980s when Colombia seemed close to an agreement which would end two decades of violence with the Fuerzas Revolucionarios Armados de Colombia, the FARC.
But those negotiations fell apart and up to 5,000 Unión Patriótica members, including two presidential candidates were assassinated. The assassinations continued until the party was almost wiped out. Many of those who were not killed fled for exile in Europe, the U.S. or Canada.
Many members were assassinated by organized crime, but government security forces including police and military were implicated in the campaign.
A number of leaders who organized massive protests and blockades of Colombian highways last year were also named as assassination targets whose deaths would bring rewards. The pamphlets claim the UP, the Marcha Patriótica and the campesino leaders are stirring up problems in the agricultural sector.
Los Rastrojos have their roots in Colombia´s paramilitary, drug trafficking organizations. They have suffered arrests and and assassinations of many of their leaders in recent years, but remain a potent, deadly force.