Colombia elects mayors and governors this Sunday mired in violence

The election campaign has been the most insecure since the peace negotiations began


Colombia celebrates municipal and regional elections on Sunday marked by the wave of violence that the country has been going through since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas in 2016, which makes this appointment with the polls the most insecure since then.

Some 36.6 million Colombians are entitled to elect this October 27 the governors of the 32 departments of the country and more than a thousand mayors, as well as members of regional assemblies and local councils, in total, about 3,300 positions to distribute.

Colombia elects mayors and governors this Sunday mired in violence
Colombia elects mayors and governors this Sunday mired in violence

The expectation was that the agreement between the State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would be felt quickly in the Colombian territory, especially in the areas most affected by the more than 50 years of war.

This was the case during the four years that the negotiation of the peace agreement in Havana lasted and in the months immediately following the signing, of which the third anniversary is precisely now being celebrated.

However, the departure of the almost 15,000 FARC guerrillas from their hiding places in the jungle and their concentration in 'ad hoc' camps for disarmament, training and social reintegration was a turning point.

The emptiness left by the FARC in its former territories has unleashed a struggle between rival groups, including the FARC dissidents, to control their lucrative businesses, such as drug trafficking, smuggling or illegal mining.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that, although the FARC was the largest, Colombia still suffers five armed conflicts involving the now first guerrilla, the National Liberation Army (ELN), also the guerrilla of the Popular Army of Liberation (EPL), to the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) and to the FARC dissidents.

As a result of these fighting, both among these armed groups – highlights the open war between the ELN and the EPL in the Catatumbo – and with the State, a total of 149 former FARC guerrillas have been killed in these three years, According to the latest data from the Ombudsman's Office, which does not include the case of 'Rodolfo Fierro', who has died this week after receiving six shots from a group of hooded men in a Territorial Training and Reintegration Area (ETCR).

The attacks have been directed with special virulence against another group, that of the so-called social or community leaders and defenders of Human Rights. In his case, there are already more than 400 murders, according to the Ombudsman's Office. Activists and NGOs say the figure would be much higher: it would touch the thousand deaths.


The campaign has not served as a brake on violence, but instead has put a third group in the spotlight of the aggressors, that of politicians and candidates. Since the beginning of this “electoral cycle”, in the words of the Ombudsman's Office, there have been 13 murders, seven of which have had candidates as victims.

One of the bloodiest events is that of Karina García, who aspired to the Mayor of Suárez, in the department of Cauca (southwest), for the Liberal Party. On September 1, FARC dissidents opened fire on the car in which he was traveling with four other people, including his mother. The vehicle was burned and its five occupants dead.

The parties have also been targeted by electoral violence. On October 11, the headquarters in Bogotá of the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force, the political formation that emerged from the FARC, and that of two other leftist groups, the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and the Patriotic Union (UP), were attacked. It is like “going back in history,” lamented the head of UP, Aída Avella.

Thus, the Office of the Ombudsman has declared “electoral risk” to 418 locations. “Illegal armed groups are interested in intervening and managing to penetrate public administrations through diverse strategies, all of them impregnated with the particular form of action dictated by the logic of armed confrontation or social conflict in the territory,” he said.

This situation contrasts with the local elections of 2015, the most peaceful in three decades, and with the legislative and presidential elections of 2018, the first after the signing of the peace agreement, which took place in relative calm.

In this context, the Government of Iván Duque devised a “shock plan” for the last 30 days of the campaign. “We are concerned about the violence that has been presented against the candidates and we are concerned about the facts that may threaten the vote,” the Colombian president admitted.


The most important position that is at stake in this electoral contest is the Mayor's Office of Bogotá, considered the second place in Colombia for its political reach, only behind the Presidency of the Republic.

Claudia López competes for the Green Party determined to become the first mayor of the capital. The former senator and former presidential candidate, 49, symbolizes Colombia's new left, already detached from the Marxist proclamations that linked her to the guerrilla struggle. She was the favorite until in August her main rival, Luis Carlos Galán, began to shorten distances.

Now, Galán leads the race for Bogotá. Journalist by profession and 42 years old is the young son of former presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, who in 1989 was killed in full rally. He jumped into the political arena in 2008 as a member of the local council of the capital and then took a seat in the Senate. Although most of his political life has been linked to Radical Change, he goes as independent.

Also noteworthy are the electoral struggles for Medellín, where the best positioned is Alfredo Ramos, from the Democratic Center, the Duke party and former President Álvaro Uribe; Barranquilla, with Jaime Alberto Pumarejo, of Radical Change, as virtual winner; and the tight fight for Cali, where Jorge Iván Ospina, of the Green Party, and Roberto Ortiz, of the Democratic Center, are practically tied.

As for the governorates, they are positions with less visibility, although they can become a good shuttle. Aníbal García, supported by the Green, Liberal and Unity parties, could resume the leadership of the Antioquia Executive; Clara Luz Roldán, who runs a coalition that goes from Radical Change to indigenous formations, would win comfortably in the Cauca Valley; and Elsa Noguera, of Radical Change, would do it in Atlántico.

With all this, the elections of this October 27 are configured as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Democratic Center of Duque and Uribe has the opportunity to extend and strengthen its territorial power, still weak in a political party created in 2014, and, on the other, the Government faces the challenge of overcoming an election day without incidents

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