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Concerns Over Violence Ahead of Colombia’s Local Elections

Colombia’s Inspector General’s Office urged the government to protect the lives of community leaders and rights defenders ahead of local elections that are set for October.

In a press statement, the Inspector General’s human rights delegate, Javier Augusto Sarmiento, warned that the situation in regards to violence against requires “urgency,” particularly in the southwest of the country.

More than 30 social leaders were assassinated in the first three months of this year, according to data provided by think tank Indepaz, which monitors social and political violence.

The same data indicates that violence against rights defenders and community leaders since the beginning peaked ahead of the local elections in 2019.

Assassinations of social leaders

According to Sarmiento, the violence in 2019 and the fact new local and regional authorities will be elected on October 29 indicate “that threats and the victimization of social leaders are more latent.”

The warning followed criticism by the director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, Ana Maria Rodriguez, who told newspaper El Espectador that the government’s promise to adopt measures to increase the security of social leaders “has been slower than we all would have wanted.”

As part of his “Total Peace” policy, President Gustavo Petro vowed to implement a 2016 peace agreement between former President Juan Manuel Santos and the now-defunct guerrilla group FARC.

The president in December last year additionally announced ceasefires with guerrilla group ELN, two guerrilla groups formed by FARC dissidents during the peace process and two organizations formed by dissidents of a 2005 demobilization agreement with the now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC.

Since then, the ceasefire with the ELN and paramilitary organization AGC were suspended.

Apart from the illegal armed groups, “clans” that control regional politics and economies have historically posed a threat to the security of social leaders, according to the Truth Commission, which investigated the armed conflict between 2017 and last year.

Source : ColombiaReports