HomeNewsBriefColombia Councilor Threats Reveal Perilous Democracy
BRIEF

Colombia Councilor Threats Reveal Perilous Democracy

COLOMBIA / 6 DEC 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

Almost half of all Colombian councilors have reported threats over the course of the year, revealing the extremely fragile nature of Colombia’s supposedly strong democracy.

Edgar Polo Devia, executive director of the National Councilors Federation (Fenacon), announced that 5,300 of Colombia’s 12,243 councilors had received threats in 2013, reported El Colombiano. Of those, just 2,800 are receiving government protection.

One councilor who was being “protected,” Donaldo Sanchez Lizarazo, was fatally shot at a gas station under a fortnight ago, Polo pointed out, after reporting threats from guerrilla group the ELN. The assassination prompted a mass resignation of almost 80 other councilors in the department Arauca, where Sanchez worked, citing “a lack of guarantees to be able to do our job.” A total of nine councilors have been killed so far this year.

The national Protection Unit, created to provide protection for government officials, is “negligent and apathetic,” failing to even send condolences when a councilor was killed, said Carmen Lucia Agredo, president of Fenacon. “We need answers,” she said. “We haven’t received any kind of support.” 

InSight Crime Analysis

At a meeting with US President Barack Obama in Cartagena last year, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos spoke of his country’s “incredibly strong democracy (…) that has been recognized by the world as a whole.” Obama congratulated the “incredible transformation of this nation.”

The new Fenacon figures clearly demonstrate how misrepresentative such narratives really are. Colombia’s democracy, long praised as one of Latin America’s best, is in reality incredibly fragile. The nation has a decentralized political system in which regional councilors have significant control over federal state resources. As the basis of the democratic system at the local level, it is difficult to say democracy is flourishing when half of them are unable to do their job properly for fear of being assassinated.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Worryingly, this figure represents a significant increase on last year, when by July just 10 percent of councilors had reported threats. Even during 2011, a regional election year making threats more likely, only around 3,500 councilors were threatened, according to Fenacon.

Exactly who is behind the threats remains unclear, with many of the country’s disparate illegal organizations focused on maintaining a firm grip over the territory where they operate. But what is clear is that Colombia’s transformation into a modern democracy is very far from complete — based on these figures it may even be going backwards.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Tags

Related Content

COLECTIVOS / 29 JAN 2018

Venezuela’s continued spiral into economic, political and social crisis and the demobilization of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group have shifted…

COLOMBIA / 4 SEP 2012

A rap video released by Colombian guerrilla group the FARC expresses a defiant position towards the peace talks set…

COLOMBIA / 21 JUN 2011

A new strain of extra-potent marijuana, reportedly bred from seeds native to the U.S. and Europe, may be bringing in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…