Colombia: Colombia, the country that voted against a peace process, fails to vote against corruption | Colombia Reports

A referendum that sought to curb rampant corruption in Colombia’s congress failed on a knife’s edge on Sunday after voters failed to turn out. Of Colombia’s 36.4 million voters, less than 12 million cast votes, leaving the referendum 500 thousand votes short for it to be declared valid. The citizens who did vote, overwhelmingly approved the seven anti-corruption measures. More than 99 percent of the voters who did turn up approved the measures. Colombia’s rampant corruption is one of the most common grievances in the South American country, yet it failed to mobilize enough voters to address the problem that is bleeding the national treasury. According to the country’s Inspector General some 10 percent of the national budget gets lost through corruption every year.

Colombia: Anti-graft referendum falls just short of required votes | Deutsche Welle

An anti-corruption referendum in Colombia failed to pass on Sunday after narrowly falling short of a required one-third quorum. Nearly 11.7 million of nearly 36 million registered voters turned out to vote on seven measures designed to battle corruption and improve transparency. A threshold of 12.1 million voters was needed to make it binding. However, of those that cast a vote nearly 99 percent supported the proposals, sending a clear message to political elites that the public wants corruption to be taken seriously.

Colombia: Iván Duque wins election to become Colombia’s president | The Guardian

Colombia has chosen Iván Duque, a conservative neophyte, to be its next president after a long and divisive campaign that often centred on a controversial peace process with leftist rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). Duque, who opposes the peace deal, won in a second round runoff election on Sunday with 53.9% of the vote. His vanquished opponent, Bogotá’s former mayor Gustavo Petro – once a leftist militant himself – defends the peace process. Despite being the first leftist in the conservative country’s history to come so close to the presidency, he lost on the night, taking 41.8% of the vote.

Colombia: President-Elect Seeks Unity After Polarizing Vote | The New York Times

President-elect Ivan Duque appealed for unity after winning a runoff election over a leftist firebrand whose ascent shook Colombia’s political establishment and laid bare deep divisions over the nation’s peace process. The conservative Duque, the protege of a powerful former president, was elected Sunday with 54 percent of the vote. He finished more than 12 points ahead of former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, though the runner-up’s performance at the ballot box was the best ever for the left in one of Latin America’s most conservative nations.

Colombia: A fragile peace deal is at stake in Colombia’s runoff election | Ken Frankel/The Globe and Mail

In Colombia’s first presidential elections since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement ending its 50-year war with the FARC insurgency, candidates have competed on issues that affect people’s daily lives and future prospects, rather than who can claim the firmest hand in dealing with armed conflict and real or exaggerated threats. Political space has been opened for a broader discussion. This is especially true on the left, which had traditionally hewn closer to the centre than elsewhere in Latin America for fear of being branded by the right as soft on the security file. In first-round voting, candidates who backed the peace accord from the beginning received 59 per cent of the votes. Though they lamented the government’s inadequate preparation in implementing aspects of the accord, they agreed that Colombia had to turn the page. However, the only major candidate who had originally opposed the peace agreement, Ivan Duque, received 39 per cent of the vote.

Colombia: Why Colombia’s elections are dominated by fear | Colombia Reports

Many in Colombia fear the election of a former guerrilla could ruin the country, while others fear the election of an oligarch could reignite mass human rights violations. While both candidates have claimed to represent hope for the country, it has been mainly concerns about the opponent that have dominated the campaign. The conservative Ivan Duque, who has the support of hard-right former President Alvaro Uribe and all traditional parties, has threatened to “restructure” an ongoing peace process and renegotiate terms for ongoing peace talks with the ELN.

Colombia: Presidential candidates want to see evidence of voter fraud | Colombia Report

Both candidates in Colombia’s presidential election race have asked the country’s chief prosecutor to reveal alleged evidence of voter fraud. Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said Thursday this year’s elections saw widespread election fraud, but said he would not reveal evidence until after a new president is elected. The results of legislative elections in March and the first presidential election round last week have become controversial after claims that both votes saw widespread fraud. Martinez said he would not reveal evidence of “sicking” levels of fraud until after the elections “so they don’t say I am intervening in politics.” Martinez’ claim contradicted the country’s electoral authorities that have categorically denied fraud claims.

Colombia: Presidential runoff will be a yet another referendum on peace | The Conversation

There were five candidates competing in Colombia’s May 27 presidential election, but peace was the main question on the ballot. In late 2016, the Colombian government signed a controversial accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a guerrilla group. Election season closely followed the peace deal – an incredibly divisive issue that was defeated at referendum just over a month before Congress approved it – turning it into a polarizing campaign issue. Implementation of the ambitious agreements with the FARC remains a work in progress. Colombia is also currently negotiating another peace process, with the National Liberation Army guerrilla group. The next president must decide whether to keep to this path or take a different route.

Colombia: Explosive claims of election rigging in Colombia | Colombia Report

Colombia’s electoral authorities refuse to investigate voting corruption despite strong claims of widespread rigging. The fraud accusations originated from anti-corruption candidate Gustavo Petro and his supporters, who alleged that voting result charts were doctored to favor front-running rival Ivan Duque. The claims were neither confirmed nor denied by independent electoral observers. The European Union, who sent a small envoy of observers to monitor the vote, told Colombia Reports it refused to speculate. Ahead of the elections, Petro had warned of alleged attempts for voting to be rigged in favor of German Vargas, who ended fourth.

Colombia: Rightwinger and former guerrilla head for presidential runoff | The Guardian

Colombians have failed to elect a president outright, setting the stage for a bitter runoff between two frontrunners from opposite ends of the political spectrum, while a peace process with leftist rebels hangs in the balance. Iván Duque, a hardline conservative who viscerally opposes the peace accord, took the largest share of the vote on Sunday with 39%, though fell short of the 50% required to win at the first round. Instead, he will face Gustavo Petro – a leftwinger and former mayor of Bogotá, who came second with 25% – in the second round on 17 June. Petro, himself once a guerrilla, was Colombia’s first progressive candidate in generations and had been expected to gain a larger share. But a third candidate, the more moderate Sergio Fajardo, appeared to siphon off Petro’s support, receiving 23%. It remains to be seen if Fajardo, a reformer and former mayor of Medellín, will back Petro in the second round.

Colombia: Colombians hope for change in the first post-war presidential election | The Economist

Every afternoon in Samaná, a small coffee-growing town in the Colombian Andes, prosperous townspeople mount Paso Fino horses to ride from bar to bar, where they down shots of aguardiente, Colombia’s most popular tipple. Their tongues loosened by the anise-flavoured drink, they become garrulous on the subject of the country’s presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for May 27th. Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing former president, “is a horseman just like us”, declares Brayan López, a horse-dealer. He, and almost everyone else in Samaná, it seems, will vote for Iván Duque, Mr Uribe’s protégé, who is leading in the polls. As president from 2002 to 2010, Mr Uribe sent the army to expel from the area around Samaná the 47th Front, a unit of the FARC, a guerrilla group that had fought the state since 1964. The front’s leader, Elda Neyis Mosquera, known as “la negra Karina”, was one of the FARC’s few female commanders and is thought to have been one of its bloodiest. She turned herself in and is now, by Mr López’s account, an uribista. In all, some 220,000 people died in the war and perhaps 7m were displaced.

Colombia: Days before vote, Santos calls emergency meeting over election fraud claims | Colombia Reports

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday agreed to investigate piling election fraud accusations a day after rejecting the fraud claims as “extreme left” inventions. Santos said he would organize a top-level meeting with ministers, judicial authorities and the military on Wednesday to discuss the piling fraud allegations. The meeting will take place just four days ahead of presidential elections after leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, a staunch anti-corruption crusader, called on his supporters to take to the streets when polls close on Sunday.

Colombia: Candidate Petro says voting software tampered with, government denies | Reuters

Leftist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro said on Sunday that voting software for next week’s contest has been tampered with, in a bid to aid center-right candidate German Vargas, an allegation the government denied. Petro, an ex-mayor of Bogota and former M-19 rebel, has long held second place in surveys, behind right-wing candidate Ivan Duque. Vargas is in fourth place. “The software has algorithm alterations that don’t give a guarantee and could generate a massive fraud,” Petro told journalists, questioning what he said was the absence of a European Union electoral observation mission with the expertise to examine the system.

Colombia: Officials Probe Voter Registration Cyberattacks Traced to Russia’s Allies | VoA News

Colombian government and military officials say the government is investigating tens of thousands of cyberattacks on the country’s voter registration systems, and traced the incidents to Russia’s key allies in the region. More than 50,000 attacks on the web platform of Colombia’s national voter registry were detected during the run-up to March 11 parliamentary elections, according to Defense Minister Luis Villegas, who said some of the hacks were staged from Venezuela, which has become a proxy for Russia. While Villegas did not specifically mention Russia at a March 8 press conference in which he denounced the ongoing incidents, he said three of the hacks — which each triggered repeated robotic attacks — were linked to internet addresses in Colombia, while one was identified as coming from Venezuela. Colonel Jose Marulanda, a Colombian intelligence analyst, said Russia was seeking a foothold in the region.

Colombia: Former rebels shunned as critics of peace deal dominate election | The Guardian

Pablo Catatumbo was once one of the most feared men in Colombia. He spent most of his 64 years as a military commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc), plotting the violent overthrow of the country’s government. This weekend, however, he cast his vote in parliamentary elections, as the former rebels made their first foray into electoral politics after a historic peace deal in 2016. “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve voted and I do it for peace,” he said after completing his ballot at a Bogotá polling station.

Colombia: Irregularities, Fraud Allegations Mar Colombian Elections | teleSUR

While some voting stations ran out of ballots, social media users also posted numerous videos showing alleged irregularities including vote buying. Colombia’s legislative elections and interparty primaries have created a stir in the South American nation, after major irregularities were reported by NGOs, candidates and social media users. The Electoral Observer Mission (OEM) – which had warned of the risk of fraud in hundreds of municipalities in the run-up to the elections –reported numerous inconsistencies as videos surfaced on social media appearing to show vote-buying and other fraudulent activities. “Unauthorized information desks” had been set up in front of polling stations in various towns “with lists of voters and transportation ready to receive them,” the OEM said. 

Colombia: Peace deal backers suffer in Colombia congress elections | Associated Press

Colombian voters turned to right-wing parties critical of the country’s peace deal with the main leftist rebels and knocked the current president’s party down in congressional elections, raising questions about the future of the accord. Sunday’s vote was seen as a barometer for a fiercely contested presidential election in May. It was also the first time former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, competed politically since disarming under the 2016 peace deal to end a half century of conflict. As expected, support for their radical agenda was soundly rejected, with FARC candidates getting less than 0.5 percent of the overall vote. That means their political party will get only the 10 seats guaranteed them by the peace accord.

Colombia: FARC withdraws from Colombia’s presidential race | AFP

Colombia’s FARC said Thursday it is pulling out of the country’s presidential race after its candidate, 59-year-old ex-guerrilla leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono, suffered a heart attack. Ivan Marquez, a senate candidate and senior member of the political party formed by the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels, told reporters that party members decided not to field a candidate after Londono underwent open heart surgery on Wednesday. Since the peace deal struck with the government of outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos in late 2016, the FARC gave up its half-century armed struggle and became a political party keeping the same acronym. Colombia’s presidential election is scheduled for May 27, with a possible runoff vote set for mid-June.

Colombia: Former rebel leaders now battle for votes | AFP

Former Colombian rebels are returning to mountain strongholds where they once fought to the death, this time to campaign in the first elections held under a peace accord that ended a 50-year insurgency. They were greeted with hugs and red roses as they made their way up the slopes of the Cauca Valley in southwest Colombia. One of them is Pablo Catatumbo, who fought for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia starting in 1973. Now, he is 65 and looked after by a detail of 40 men — some ex-rebels and some former adversaries. Under the peace accord reached in late 2016 that led to the FARC’s disarming, the former rebels are guaranteed at least 10 of the 268 congressional seats up for grabs in the March 11 election. But they can gain even more, so former rebel leaders are out trying to win votes.

Colombia: FARC to Resume Presidential Election Campaign? | teleSUR

Colombia’s Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons (FARC) is considering resuming its presidential elections campaign which was suspended on February 9 due to security concerns. Following a meeting with authorities on Saturday, the former guerrilla group turned political entity announced it’s analyzing the feasibility of returning to the campaign trail after the government of Juan Manuel Santos offered ‘guarantees.’ Late Friday, leaders of the FARC met with Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera to communicate the main concerns they have as a political organization. FARC leader and presidential candidate Rodrigo ‘Timochenko’ Londoño told media he had outlined his party’s concerns about right-wing groups promoting intolerance and threatening violence in a bid to jeopardize the peace process.

Colombia: Election tests Colombia’s democracy — and its peace | Financial Times

When Colombia struck a peace deal two years ago, the formula to end the western hemisphere’s longest civil conflict seemed simple: in return for handing in their weapons, leaders of the Marxist Farc guerrilla group would be able to run for office in elections this year. But nothing has proved simple when it comes to resolving a conflict that has claimed 200,000 lives, displaced millions and still inflames raw emotions. Although the fighting has not re-started, both the peace formula and Colombia’s democratic credentials are being severely tested ahead of presidential elections in May, thanks to a particularly poisonous campaign.

Colombia: Farc suspends election campaigning over ‘threats‘ to candidates | BBC

The demobilised Colombian rebel group Farc says it is suspending political campaigning for upcoming elections following threats to its candidates. Farc signed a peace deal with the government in 2016 and announced last year it was forming a political party. However, protesters have disrupted its rallies, particularly those for leader Rodrigo Londoño, known as Timochenko, who is running for president. On Friday the party demanded “security guarantees” for its candidates.

Colombia: Ex-guerrilla launches historic presidential bid in Colombia | Associated Press

Former guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono was once one of Colombia’s most-wanted men. Now he is a presidential contender. The graying, spectacled man best known by his alias Timochenko launched his bid Saturday to lead the government he once battled from the jungle with a celebratory campaign kickoff featuring giant posters, colorful confetti and even a catchy jingle. “I promise to lead a government that propels the birth of a new Colombia,” he said. “A government that at last represents the interests of the poor.”

Colombia: Russia using disinformation tactics to disrupt Colombia elections: Former US official | Colombia Reports

Russia is using social media to interfere in Colombia’s pending elections, according to the director of the Kimberly Green Latin and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. In an interview with newspaper El Tiempo, Frank Mora of the FIU said that “what we have seen so far is that they are using social media to generate mistrust and confusion among the electorate.” Disinformation played a major role in a 2016 vote in which the country rejected a peace agreement with the FARC. A recent social media campaign seemingly promoted by far right activists that claimed that an online population census was meant to benefit the FARC, the Marxist group that laid down its weapons last year.

Colombia: How governments pitch a referendum is a big deal. Here’s what we learned in Colombia. | The Washington Post

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today, in recognition of his four-year effort to guide peace negotiations with Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC. The October announcement about the prize came just days after Colombians rejected a referendum on the historic peace agreement to end the armed conflict that has plagued the country for half a century. In late November, the two sides pushed through a revised peace deal addressing some of the concerns of those who voted against the referendum. Santos avoided another referendum by getting the senate and the lower house to approve the new pact. The outcomes of referendums — whether in Colombia, or the June Brexit vote or December’s Italian referendum — make it clear that getting people to vote for government initiatives is harder than one would expect.

Colombia: Voters reject deal to end 52-year FARC rebel war | Reuters

Colombians narrowly rejected a peace deal with Marxist guerrillas in a referendum on Sunday, plunging the nation into uncertainty and dashing President Juan Manuel Santos’ painstakingly negotiated plan to end the 52-year war. The surprise victory for the “no” camp poured cold water on international joy, from the White House to the Vatican, at what had seemed to be the end of the longest-running conflict in the Americas. The “no” camp won by 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent. Voter turnout was only 37 percent, perhaps partly owing to torrential rain through the country. Both sides in the war immediately sought to reassure the world they would try to revive their peace plan. Santos, 65, said a ceasefire already negotiated would remain in place. He vowed to sit down on Monday with the victorious “no” camp to discuss the way forward, and send his chief negotiator back to Cuba to meet with FARC rebel leaders. “I will not give up, I will keep seeking peace until the last day of my term because that is the way to leave a better nation for our children,” said Santos, who cannot seek re-election when his second term ends in August 2018.

Colombia: After voters’ rejection president scrambles to save peace accord with FARC rebels | The Washington Post

Colombia’s president tried Monday to keep alive an agreement to end Latin America’s longest-running war after a shocking rejection by voters, but his opponents made clear their price for joining the effort will be steep. President Juan Manuel Santos invited Colombia’s political parties to an emergency meeting Monday and asked them to form a big-tent coalition to rework the deal and make it more appealing to the voters who spurned it in Sunday’s referendum by a narrow margin. Santos told Colombians that a month-old bilateral cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would remain in effect. He ordered his negotiating team to return to Cuba, where the peace talks were held, to resume contacts with FARC leaders.

Colombia: With Colombians set to vote on peace deal, a former president campaigns to kill it | Los Angeles Times

When they go to the polls Sunday, Colombian voters are expected to endorse the landmark peace agreement signed this week by the government and the country’s most important rebel group. If that happens, it will be despite the formidable efforts of former President Alvaro Uribe. He has waged an aggressive campaign to kill the deal, rallying opponents ranging from victims rights groups to wealthy ranchers. Their main complaint is that the deal’s “transitional justice” treats the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — the guerrilla group known as FARC — too leniently for horrific crimes committed over decades of war. Those who confess to murders, kidnappings, terror attacks and other atrocities would face maximum sentences of eight years of “restricted liberty,” a form of house arrest, in the 23 “relocation zones,” the rural reserves where rebels will move once they give up their weapons.

Colombia: Violence and Fraud Put Colombian Elections at Risk | teleSUR

Political developments are heating up in Colombia as the country prepares for another election, with at least seven candidates killed and 30 municipalities uncovering cases of voter fraud. Seven politicians have been killed since February this year, with the most recent murder victim Giraldo Ojeda, a conservative leader and mayor of San Jose de Alban who was killed Sept. 30. According to Colombian daily El Tiempo, 157 other candidates have also reportedly received threats, just days ahead of the Oct. 25 legislative elections. Most of the threats have been made in the states of Valle del Cauca, Narino and Antioquia, considered some of the most dangerous regions of the country.