In Colombian elections, paramilitary-political connections still spell success
Connections count in Colombian elections, especially when they are armed and illegal.
Apparently 70 of 131 candidates connected to various illegal, armed groups were elected in Sunday’s Colombia’s congressional elections, according to Fundación Paz y Reconciliación. The Fundación Paz y Roconciliación, an organization dedicated to achieving peace and reconciliation, was founded by former guerrilla, Ejército de Liberación Nacional, León Valencia. Valencia now is a columnist with national newsmagazine La Semana.
The revelations provided by Valencia reveal some 53 per cent of candidates with connections to armed, illegal Colombian organizations such as paramilitaries, organized crime or guerrillas were elected. (Most of the illegal connections were with paramilitary groups.)
That means illegal connections remain a pretty attractive proposition for would-be Colombian politicians as only 11 per cent of the 2,438 registered candidates obtained seats in the 166-member House of Representatives or the 102-seat Senate.
The Partido de la U, the party of incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, elected seven senators with connections to illegal groups. Colombia´s oldest parties the Partido Conservador and the Partido Liberal each elected five. Opción Ciudadana elected three and former president Álvaro Uribe´s Centro Democrático elected two.
Paramilitary and organized crime infiltration, and to a smaller degree guerrilla infiltration, of the political world has a long and strong history in Colombia.
A number of paramilitary leaders and politicians signed the Pact of Rialto in 2001 that agreed to “refound the nation” sharing power between politicians and the drug-dealing, paramilitary groups who were battling against armed rebels.
The agreement became public in 2006 and a lengthy investigation revealed massive infiltration of Colombian politics by paramilitaries financing political campaigns of paramilitary-friendly candidates.
Many of those revelations were made by leftist Polo Democrático politicians, which included then senator Gustavo Petro (now Bogotá mayor), Senator Iván Cepeda and current Polo presidential candidate Clara López Obregón. Former Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) national leader Salvadore Mancuso boasted in an interview with national news magazine La Semana that 35 per cent of Colombian Congressional representatives were “amigos” of the paramilitaries.
Somewhat perversely, Polo Democrático whistleblowers have been punished electorally after exposing the massive right-wing, criminal infiltration of Colombian politics. Their number of elected congressional representatives dropped from eight to five in Sunday´s elections. And Petro´s days as Bogotá mayor are severely threatened as he has been ordered removed from office by right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez for alleged mismanagement of the city´s garbage collection services.
Meanwhile, accusations of fraud and massive irregularities are being exchanged in the aftermath of Sunday´s elections.
Colombian assistant prosecutor Jorge Fernando Perdomo said Monday that some 250 suspects have been apprehended in connection with presumed irregularities.
“It´s a higher number than we have ever seen in an election before,” Fernando Perdomo said in an interview published in Bogotá newspaper El Espectador.
Crimes investigated include vote-buying, ballot-switching and partisan officials replacing supposed non-partisan personnel in voting stations.
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