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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Colombia's Pacific region on fire just hours before the elections

Colombian Pacific
Photo: Ivan Castaneira. Global Exchange - Peninsula 360 Press

By Irma Gallo, with information by Iván Castaneira

A few hours before the second round of elections in Colombia, the Colombian Pacific region, where the Gustavo Petro-Francia Marquez ticket of the Historical Pact had the majority of votes in the first round, is facing violence and intimidation by armed groups and the government to intimidate and dissuade them from voting freely and peacefully.

Alí Bantú Ashanti is the Coordinator of Pacific Votean initiative for the defense of free elections in the Pacific region of Colombia. This region is made up of 62 municipalities, with a population of approximately 1,537,000 inhabitants, most of whom are Afro-descendants. It has historically had low political and electoral participation and is marked by vote buying, corruption and violence.

Ali Bantu Ashanti, Voto Pacifico Coordinator Photo: Ivan Castaneira. Global Exchange - Peninsula 360 Press

In an interview with Iván Castaneira, Alí Bantú Ashanti expressed his concern about the current situation in the Pacific:

There is fear, uncertainty. People are under anxiety in the whole Pacific region. At this moment I am in the municipality of Guapi, touring this region with the lawyers of Voto Pacifico who decided to join me to denounce the electoral fraud, the vote buying and the human rights violations that we are experiencing in this beautiful and powerful region of the country that unfortunately is plunged in violence?

In the municipality of Bagadó yesterday, for example, there were heavy confrontations between the national army and the ELN group, directly violating the right of the people in Chocó to participate freely. More than 49 thousand people are currently living in a state of overcrowding," he continued.

And what about the two people who were murdered in a hospital in the municipality of Guapi or the indigenous social leader who was murdered in Cauca and many other leaders who have been murdered in the department of Valle?

Photo: Ivan Castaneira. Global Exchange - Peninsula 360 Press

The leader made a call to the national and international community ?to be vigilant, to be watchful, so that peaceful elections are held in Colombia and that people can go to the polls without fear, without fear of being killed because they vote for one or another candidate?

He also denounced the concern for the 40 young people imprisoned by the police in the context of the so-called Plan Democracy. We are very worried about what is happening with these young people who mobilized in what was called the social explosion". 

For Bantú Ashanti and the organization Voto Pacífico, the repression of the young people is a retaliation on the part of the Duque government, "which does not want free and transparent elections to be held". Likewise, he is convinced that the National Registrar is not providing guarantees for the people to trust the National Registrar: "he has flatly refused to comply with the ruling of the Council of State which obliges him to carry out an independent and impartial audit".

This article was produced with the support of a group of journalists covering the second round of the elections in Colombia, sponsored by the organization Global Exchange in collaboration with Peninsula 360 Press.

You may be interested in: People in the Colombian Pacific feel very close to Francia Márquez


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