Threats against politicians increase in Colombia

Threats to political parties rise as the presidential election nears

Threats to political parties rise as the presidential election nears

BOGOTA, Colombia - Members of the Centro Democratico conservative party, multinational companies and some representatives of the press have been singled out in the department of Arauca as “military targets” by the FARC guerrilla group in the run up to the presidential elections on May 25 in Colombia.

The FARC’s (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) eastern bloc, which has been waging a civil conflict for almost five decades against the Colombia government, allegedly distributed a pamphlet threatening candidates for the Centro Democratico party including the presidential candidate Oscar Zuluaga and former president Alvaro Uribe. Additionally José Facundo Castillo, the governor of Arauca, journalists from the locally based La Voz del Cinaruco radio station and multinational companies were also mentioned.

“We hope that the full weight of the law will be applied to the person or people who drafted these pamphlets with the intention of intimidating people and businesses in Arauca,” said Governor Castillo in a press conference on Friday in Arauca. “The authorities are investigating where the pamphlets came from.”

The department of Arauca has long been a flashpoint for the long-running Colombia conflict given that both the FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrilla groups are active in areas bordering Venezuela in eastern Colombia. Presently, the FARC, which is the larger of the two groups with an estimated 8000 combatants, has been engaged in peace dialogues with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba since 2012.

“On the one hand they are discussing peace and then on the other they are obstructing democracy,” said Jorge Armando Otálora Gómez, the Colombian ombudsman, in a press conference in Bogota. “The guerrillas want guarantees about reintegration into society and so we are calling upon them to confirm or deny the authenticity of this document.”

Oil companies in the region of Arauca have been particularly impacted by the fighting. Due to guerrilla attacks and bombings, the Caño Limón – Coveñas pipeline that extends 480 miles from the interior of the country to the Caribbean coast has been inactive for a month.

The pipeline ordinarily transports 72,000 barrels of oil per day but has been attacked 20 times in 2014 leading to business losses of up to US$8 million per day, according to Alejandro Martínez, the president of the Colombian Petroleum Association.

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