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Friday, March 10, 2006
More on Colombian Elections and Paramilitaries
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:25 pm

The links of paramilitaries to the Colombian congressional elections seem to be the story of this election year. I noted a Miami Herald yesterday, here’s more from the CSM: Paramilitaries still sway Colombian votes

despite the progress on demobilization, and the drop in election-related paramilitary violence, a wide variety of observers here say paramilitary efforts to influence politics have not ceased. Paramilitary leaders have merely taken a subtler tack, analysts say, using coffers flush with proceeds from the drug trade to finance favored candidates.

[…]

even when the votes are tallied after Sunday’s election, it won’t be easy to measure how many seats will be under paramilitary control. Claudia López, a political analyst for the newsweekly Semana tried to gauge paramilitary influence in the last congressional elections by studying atypical voting patterns. In areas where the paramilitaries had consolidated their power through massacres in the preceding years, she found, candidates often won by overwhelming landslides of as much as 96 percent of the vote.

That last comment is interesting, given the way that Congressional seats are filled in Colombia, it isn’t as if this would be a case of Candidate X beating Candidate Y 96-4. It is possible that a candidate won 96% of the vote in a given municipio/set of municipios (analogous, more or less, to a county). I have never done analysis of congressional elections in Colombia at that level, so I can’t say off the top of my head if the statement above makes sense or not (most of the specific analysis I have done has been focused on Senate elections).

The same theme (paras in politics) is continued in a Houston Chronicle story this morning:

You need permission to run for Congress in this steamy northern Colombian town where right-wing militias hold sway _ that is, if you value your life.

Juan David Diaz canceled a campaign stop ahead of Sunday’s national elections after receiving a warning that he would be assassinated if he set foot in this town of 160,000.

The opposition candidate says he is under threat for helping expose ties between outlawed paramilitary groups and a powerful businesswoman who is a powerbroker in Magangue. Earlier this month, one of his campaigners was found decapitated.

And then there’s this, which makes one wonder how one gets anyone to run:

Diaz worries that even if he is elected to Congress, he will not be safe.

His father, Edualdo Diaz, the mayor of nearby El Roble, made headlines in 2003 when he took the floor in one of Uribe’s townhall meetings and claimed plans were afoot for his murder. He named those he suspected in the plot and begged the president for help.

Two months later, he was killed.

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