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News > Latin America

Colombians Attend Territorial Elections Threatened by Violence

  • A Colombian citizen voting, Oct. 29, 2023.

    A Colombian citizen voting, Oct. 29, 2023. | Photo: X/ @ReporteNi

Published 29 October 2023

On Sunday, 38.9 million citizens are eligible to select 1,102 mayors, 32 governors, and subnational authorities.

On Sunday, Colombians head to the polls to choose mayors, governors, council members, deputies, and local representatives amidst an atmosphere of violence and insecurity, with 37 electoral violence-related murders recorded.


Colombia: Fire in Electoral Office Leaves 1 Dead, 4 Injured

Historically, elections in Colombia have been marred by violence, but the 2016 Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) significantly reduced it in recent years, although it has not completely disappeared.

In the lead-up to these elections, violence has intensified, targeting not only candidates but also voters. According to the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares), 37 people have been killed, and 51 have survived assassination attempts during the campaign.

The most recent victim was Jaime Diaz, a former FARC guerrilla who was shot dead while running for a municipal council seat in Chalan, Sucre Department. His murder adds to the tally of seven councilor candidates, along with one Local Administrative Board (JAL) representative candidate, who was assassinated before the elections.

The text reads, "At this time, President Gustavo Petro arrives at Bolivar Square in Bogota for the event that will begin the territorial elections in which local authorities will be elected throughout the country."

According to the National Registry, the organization responsible for organizing the elections, 38.9 million Colombians are eligible to select 1,102 mayors and 32 governors, as well as members of municipal councils, departmental assemblies, and JAL representatives, for which 132,553 candidates have registered.

The nation's focus will be on the mayoral election results in the four major cities: Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Barranquilla. Simultaneously, concerns persist over the violence primarily occurring in small towns and rural areas with a higher presence of llegal armed groups.

One of the most violent regions is Cauca in the southwestern part of the country, where the Central High Command (EMC), a FARC dissident group, has gained strength.

The Colombian State has been conducting peace negotiations with the EMC guerrilla fighters, with whom a bilateral ceasefire is in effect, which explicitly prohibits interference in the elections and requests their cooperation to ensure that the elections take place as planned.

The presence of EMC members delayed the delivery of electoral materials to the village of El Plateado, which is part of the municipality of Argelia, until an army detachment arrived yesterday to guarantee voter safety.

In the Guaviare Department, where the EMC is also active, a group of soldiers assigned to provide election security was detained over the weekend in the San Jorge village by civilians demanding the withdrawal of military units from the area.

In response to these situations, the government's chief peace negotiator Camilo Gonzalez and the National Registrar Alexander Vega met on Thursday in Bogota with the EMC's peace dialogue spokesperson, Andrey Avendaño, who pledged not to disrupt the elections.

While this meeting drew criticism from the government, a more significant controversy arose on Friday due to a joint statement in which both peace delegations announced that representatives of the EMC had been invited by "electoral authorities" to attend the ceremonial election kick-off event in Popayan, the capital of Cauca.

This announcement prompted Colombian President Gustavo Petro to intervene, clarifying that neither the High Commissioner for Peace Danilo Rueda nor his administration had granted authorization for the EMC to participate in any election-related events across the country.

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