On Thursday, the Ombudsman Carlos Camargo warned that 290 Colombian municipalities are on "high risk" and "extreme risk" alert due to armed actions attributed to the Gulf Clan and other irregular armed groups.
Between February and May, the number of municipalities at "extreme risk" increased from 79 to 84 and "high risk" alerts shifted from 195 to 206. This happened due to an increase in violence in the departments of Magdalena, Cordoba, Sucre, Bolivar, Antioquia, and Choco.
In early May, the Gulf Clan also ordered an "armed strike" in retaliation for the extradition of Dairo Usuga (aka Otoniel) to the U.S. This action affected daily life in over 100 coastal municipalities.
As the presidential elections to be held on May 29 approach, the departments with the highest number of municipalities with "extreme risk" alerts are Cauca (16), Nariño (14), Choco (9), Norte de Santander (8), Antioquia (7), Bolivar (6), Caqueta (6), Arauca (4), Tolima (4), Putumayo (3), Valle del Cauca (3), Huila (2), Meta (1), and Magdalena ( one).
The Ombudsman's Office recommended that President Ivan Duque's administration and subnational governments implement "extraordinary actions" of protection and adopt "forceful intelligence strategies" to guarantee citizen participation in the elections.
The tweet reads, "In Colombia, behind every illegal act there is always the shadow of the State and the narco-dictatorship of the Democratic Center controlled by Ivan Duque and Alvaro Uribe. Journalists Luis Angel and Luna Mendoza are investigating for the Brazilian outlet O Globo. Police detained them, warning them that they would be transferred to the judicial and criminal investigation units (SIJIN) and that they would be summoned. Angel is still detained."
"The State must implement more investigation and verification mechanisms for complaints related to electoral crimes and threats against candidates. It must also provide protection so that people can vote in rural areas and, above all, it must guarantee free participation," Camargo said.
The increase in insecurity occurs at a time when the Historical Pact presidential candidate Gustavo Petro is the favorite to defeat all of his contenders, among whom is Federico Gutierrez, a right-wing candidate who defends the interests of Colombian elites.
“The armed actors said that it is forbidden to vote for the candidate. Many people are not going to vote because they are very afraid”, Nelsy Oliveros, a farmer from a municipality in Magdalena, told outlet La Marea.