HomeNewsAnalysisWhy Are Political Candidates Being Assassinated in Colombia?
ANALYSIS

Why Are Political Candidates Being Assassinated in Colombia?

COLOMBIA / 12 SEP 2019 BY MARIA ALEJANDRA NAVARRETE EN

The murder of seven candidates in Colombia’s upcoming municipal elections within a month, the highest rate since 2015, has raised new questions about the motives behind the violence. 

According to the most recent report on political violence by the Electoral Observation Mission (Misión de Observación Electoral - MOE), 364 political, social and community leaders around the country have been the victims of assaults within the past year, 91 of whom were killed. 

Among the most recent killings, when Karina García, a mayoral candidate from the Liberal party in Suárez, Cauca, was shot to death in her car along with five other people on September 1. 

The following day, Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos claimed in an interview with W Radio, that a dissident member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) was responsible for the murder [of Karina García in Cauca]. 

Since García, two more political candidates have been murdered, bringing the total to seven assassinated in the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Valle del Cauca and Caquetá between August and early September.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profile

In addition to the deaths, the MOE report counted other acts of violence during this pre-electoral period, including 224 threats, 45 physical attacks, two kidnappings and two forced disappearances nationwide.

The next regional elections will take place on October 27, when Colombians nationwide will elect governors, local department representatives, mayors and more.

InSight Crime Analysis

Territorial control, the positioning of armed actors and campaign financing are among the major factors behind the assassinations of political leaders and candidates in Colombia. 

Colombia's complex criminal and electoral landscape means that different motives in different areas may explain separate spikes in electoral violence. However, as the MOE report shows, political violence affects all communities, independent of where they fall on the political spectrum. 

Over the past few years, leaders from at least 15 different political parties have been attacked. Candidates ranged from a conservative Democratic Center mayoral candidate in Toledo, in the department of Antioquia, to two municipal candidates from Bucaramanga and Socorro in Santander from the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común), the party of the now demobilized FARC.

InSight Crime has been able to confirm through field visits that candidates are often murdered by armed groups looking to stamp their authority on a region. Candidates seen as a threat to this control or to illegal revenue streams often become targets.

Candidates in favor of specific actions, such as promoting the forced eradication or voluntary substitution of illicit coca crops, or supporting the development of alternative economies to replace coca, are especially at risk.

SEE ALSO: Uncertainty Surrounds Protection Plan for Colombia’s Crop Substitution Leaders

According an early warning issued by the Ombudsman’s Office on August 31, there is a risk that ex-FARC dissidents, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional-ELN), the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación-EPL) and various paramilitary groups operating around the country will seek to influence the upcoming elections. 

A second risk factor, also pointed out by the Ombudsman’s Office, is the political stigma that candidates suffer during the election season. 

A week before her murder, for example, Karina García had recorded a video in which she stated that her political opponents wrongly accused her of wanting to allow paramilitaries to enter the region, of bringing multinational companies into the municipality to extract gold and of supporting local inhabitants having their land repossessed. García claimed that these accusations put her at risk considering the current tumultuous security situation in Cauca.

Camilo Vargas, the coordinator of the MOE’s Observatory on Political and Social Violence, said that the motives for violence may also be related to factors such as internal disputes within political parties and campaign financing. 

“The internal negotiation processes on the local stage tend to be settled with violence,” Vargas told InSight Crime.

Sometimes, he explained, the candidates themselves start disputes in order to receive their party’s endorsement or win races, and even hire armed groups to get their opponents out of the way. 

Another risk factor is related to campaign financing

“Due to the lack of control over financing, there is a perverse incentive to launder illicit funds in electoral campaigns,” Vargas said. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 10 AUG 2011

In the one of the first acts of cooperation since Chile and Bolivia had a spat over the arrest of…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2021

A court in Cabo Verde has approved the extradition to the United States of Colombian businessman Álex Saab, who may…

COLOMBIA / 1 AUG 2014

A mafia boss is found slumped in a car park in an exclusive neighborhood with four bullets in his head.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…