On May 29, 2022, Colombia will elect a new president. This election year, in which parliamentary elections have already been held, is seeing a spike in violence in both big cities and rural areas.
From March 13, 2021 — the beginning of the electoral calendar — to March 7, 2022, 188 people have been victims of electoral violence in Colombia, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of Colombia (PARES, in Spanish) said in a report. This means a government official, political candidate, or political activist is killed, attacked, or threatened every other day, according to PARES. Armed groups battling over territory in a show of force has been one of the central points in this backdrop.
The parliamentary votes took place on March 13 and set the stage for the presidential elections. That same day, two military personnel were killed and two were injured in explosions in the Meta and Caquetá departments. The Colombian Army suspects that these were acts of revenge from criminal organizations. In the Caquetá region, the Army’s Joint Task Force Omega had been carrying out operations to combat armed groups under the leadership of two dissidents of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish), Iván Mordisco and Gentil Duarte. The latter is today one of the most wanted criminals in Colombia, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
The parliamentary elections, Defense Minister Diego Molano said, were however free and fair, despite these attacks on service members. “Although there were two exceptions due to public order issues, the Public Force acted forcefully, our National Army and the Police, to attend to the facts and ensure order and free vote,” Molano said.
To prevent violent incidents, the government mobilized 240,000 military and police personnel to the more than 12,000 polling stations throughout the country, Molano said in an interview to Colombian newspaper El Universal.
On March 27, a bomb left in a suitcase near a police station in Bogotá exploded, resulting in the death of two children age 5 and 12, and leaving 33 people injured, AFP reported.
The bomb, Police said, was similar to the one used in another Police station in Bogotá on March 5. Police said that dissidents of the FARC have claimed responsibility for the attacks. President Iván Duque denounced the “terrorist attacks” and offered an $80,000 reward for information.
Also on March 5, Police in Bogotá seized a fragmentation grenade, 11 bars of explosives, and rifle cartridges in a house south of the Colombian capital. Authorities arrested three people who were at the scene. The local police chief linked the incident to threats made ahead of the election by armed criminal groups, such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissidents of the FARC, the investigative journalism organization Insight Crime said.
In late February, the ELN announced the implementation of a three-day armed strike to protest against the government’s social and economic policies. According to the Investigation and Prosecution Unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, 107 violent acts resulted from this armed strike, El Tiempo reported. These included the murder of a social leader, 18 terrorist acts, and five attacks against the public force, among others.
For the presidential elections, which first round is scheduled for May 29, the Colombian Defense Ministry said it will launch the second phase of the Democracy Elections 2022 Plan (Plan Democracia Elecciones 2022) and the Agora II Plan, which include strategies for the deployment of security and defense forces, and coordination with international organizations to observe the electoral process in order to guarantee transparency and maintain political rights and duties, while ensuring the protection of presidential candidates as well as the population.