HomeNewsBriefElection Results Show Persisting Criminal Influence in Colombia Politics
BRIEF

Election Results Show Persisting Criminal Influence in Colombia Politics

COLOMBIA / 11 MAR 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Colombia's congressional elections saw 69 candidates believed to have ties with illegal groups win seats, showing how criminal and armed groups continue to influence the country's political system years after the breaking of the "parapolitics" scandal.

From a list of 131 candidates questioned for criminal ties compiled by investigative group the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, 33 of these were elected to the Senate and 36 to the Chamber of Representatives. Two of the candidates, both from the U Party of President Juan Manuel Santos, received the third and fourth most votes in the country, reported Caracol.

The 69 candidates have either been investigated for direct ties with criminal groups, or are connected to former politicians accused or convicted of "parapolitics," -- links with paramilitary groups. Two candidates -- Jose Alfredo Gnecco Zuleta (pdf) and Antenor Duran -- were allegedly supported by Juan Francisco "Kiko" Gomez Cerchar, the former governor of La Guajira who was arrested last year for multiple homicides and ties to the paramilitary successor groups known as the BACRIM (from the abbreviation of the Spanish for "criminal bands").

Thirty five candidates in the elections have been the subject of preliminary investigations by the Supreme Court of Justice for paramilitary links, of which 26 were elected, reported Verdad Abierta.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has been accused on numerous occasions of colluding with paramilitaries and drug traffickers, also gained a seat in the Senate, and saw his new party making sweeping gains in the Senate and the House.

InSight Crime Analysis

The results of the elections are a reminder the influence of criminal and armed groups persists in Colombian politics years after the official demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary umbrella group. The AUC claimed to hold sway over a third of congress and its influence allegedly reached into the president's office. Over 50 politicians have been convicted for colluding with the AUC, over a hundred have been investigated and close to a thousand politicians were named as accomplices by demobilizing paramilitaries. As illustrated by the latest elections, some of these corrupt networks persist today.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

The neo-paramilitary descendents of these groups, the BACRIM, do not have the same capacity to infiltrate politics on a national level. However, as the latest results show with the election of two candidates linked to a governor jailed for BACRIM ties, these groups retain the capacity to influence politics on a local level.

The extent of the continued influence of armed and criminal groups was demonstrated in the run-up to the elections, when the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) registered 260 municipalities at risk of both electoral fraud and violence. The Colombian ombudsman's office received over 5,000 reports of threats against voters in the 10 days prior to elections, on the part of both criminal groups and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Meanwhile, Uribe's success may spell bad news for the ongoing peace process with the FARC. Uribe is the fiercest critic of the process, and will now be attacking it from a position as leader of a strong opposition, while President Santos' pro-peace coalition has been severely weakened.

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

COLOMBIA / 25 AUG 2011

Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug…

EL SALVADOR / 13 JAN 2021

The head of El Salvador’s financial regulatory agency has instructed banks not to close the accounts of suspected or formally…

ELITES AND CRIME / 29 MAY 2019

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to use assets seized from criminal actors to fund a wave of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.