Petro Bulletproofs Campaign Amid Assassination Fears

With just two weeks until the election, Colombia’s leading presidential slate is making an international appeal after receiving death threats on the campaign trail.

The Pacto Historico ticket penned a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in which they ask for guarantees, after receiving death threats and intimidating which have been dismissed by Colombian officials.

On May 2, Gustavo Petro suspended scheduled visits to the coffee going region for security reasons, citing information he received on a possible assassination attempt from the criminal organization ‘La Cordillera’. The letter also states that his VP pick received three death threats in early April.

Polls indicate that Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Márquez are far ahead of right-wing Federico Futiérrez, in second place, and are just points away from the 50% needed to be declared winner in the first round on May 29. A second round vote, if required, would also favor Petro.

Presidential campaigning in a narcostate

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro holds a campaign rally in Cúcuta. May 5, 2022.

Photos of Petro’s recent campaign events have garnered some attention. At significant risk, Petro went ahead with a speech in Cúcuta, wearing a bulletproof vest, surrounded on stage by a robust security team holding large bulletproof shields. Other scheduled events were canceled.

The economist and senator has also taken to Twitter and campaign events to denounce vote buying in favor of his opponents. Three quarters of those surveyed by CELAG believe that there is a possibility of electoral fraud being committed on May 29.

Despite the numerous irregularities, international concern for the electoral process has been minimal, with Colombia only entering the headlines this week after a Paraguayan prosecutor was assassinated while on his honeymoon south of Cartagena.

Foreign Interference

On Friday, Vice Presidential candidate Márquez accused the United States of intervening in the election.

Márquez said that a statement from the U.S. ambassador in Colombia made claims of information on possible financing and intervention in the election, by the governments of Russia and Venezuela.

Márquez deemed it “a direct intervention of the Government of the United States, through Ambassador Phillipe Goldberg, in the elections.”

Killings continue in the narco satellite state

Organizations continue to denounce the assassinations of social leaders around the country and Ivan Duque’s refusal to implement the Peace Accords.

Colombian human rights defenders and victims have not ceased to demand justice for crimes and brutal repression carried out during mass mobilizations in 2021 and on other occasions.

As of April 13, 39 massacres have been recorded in since the start of the year according to Indepaz. While the Duque government and oligarchy-controlled media blame the high levels of violence to left-wing guerrillas, it seems people are more inclined than ever to attribute violence and killings to paramilitaries linked to the state.

A poll conducted in April showed that only 9.9% of Colombians viewed Duque positively while 82.8% have a negative opinion of the outgoing president. The same survey found that Colombians want paramilitary-linked former president Alvaro Uribe, accused of piloting Duque’s administration, to retire or go to jail.

Duque’s obsession with pleasing Washington did result in Biden bestowing Colombia with the designation of Major Non-NATO Ally. Meanwhile at home, disapproval ratings couldn’t soar any higher. Still, at recent meeting of U.S. companies in Colombia, Duque boasted about a remark made by a Biden advisor, who said “Colombia embodies the values that President Biden sees for Latin America.”

Normalizing relations with Venezuela

Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerilla, continues to try to distinguish himself from the Venezuelan government at every opportunity, even finding the time, amid Colombia’s human rights crisis, to make snide remarks on Venezuela.

At the May 5th Cúcuta event, the ‘progressive’ candidate, standing on stage behind a fortress of security to guard against his own killing, compared President Nicolás Maduro to Duque: “The destinies of Colombia and of (Venezuela) follow the same paths. They even resemble each other in their rulers. There is nothing more similar to Maduro in Colombia than Duque.”

On that same stage, the candidate said that if elected, he would resume diplomatic relations with Caracas in order to seek solutions to shared problems such as migration and contraband. Ties have been severed since February 2019.

In spite of his repeated anti-socialist remarks, Petro has undoubtedly secured the support of the Colombian left, broadly defined, including social movements and indigenous organizations, as well as other political sectors.

The candidate says he’ll implement the 2016 Peace Accords, open dialogue with all armed actors, work towards the democratization of land, guarantee the right to food and fight hunger and malnutrition. Most importantly, Petro stands to make changes to Colombia’s economic model, causing alarm among the country’s oligarchy and foreign capital.

By Kawsachun News

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