Francia Márquez, vice presidential candidate for the left-wing Historic Pact coalition in Colombia, had her life threatened once again on the night of May 21. During a campaign rally at Journalists’ Park in the capital Bogotá, a laser was pointed at Márquez while she was on stage addressing a multitude of supporters.
Videos shared on social media showed Márquez’s bodyguards immediately covering her with bulletproof shields to protect her and prevent an attack on her life. She was forced to abruptly finish her speech and leave the stage in the face of the possible danger.
“They shall not pass, we are going to liberate our people,” Márquez shouted as she was surrounded with protection shields and escorted from the stage.
Later, she tweeted that violence would be defeated and peace would prevail: “During the commemoration of the Day of Afro-Colombians, they wanted to intimidate me by pointing a laser at me from a nearby building. They will not be able to silence us! Our fight is and has always been against all types of violence that seek to instill fear in us. Peace will win!”
This was the fourth and the most serious death threat that Márquez had faced since March. Historic Pact’s presidential candidate Gustavo Petro has also had his life threatened more than once since April, and has been campaigning under heavy security.
The death threats haunting the current electoral process have a history in political careers ending in a hail of bullets. In the 1990 presidential elections, three candidates were assassinated — two were from the left, and one was a liberal.
The Historic Pact presidential ticket, with Petro and Márquez, is favoured to win the May 29 presidential elections, with between 37.9% to 48% of votes, according to various opinion polls. Their potential victory threatens to break the decades-long rule of conservatives in the country. Since the beginning of the election campaign, they have been constantly targeted with threats by illegal paramilitary groups, allegedly supported by the Colombian right-wing oligarchy.
Nevertheless, despite the grave threats, the duo has bravely continued their campaign and closed it together with a massive rally at the historic Bolívar square in Bogotá on May 22. Tens of thousands of citizens joined the rally to express their support for the progressive leaders. “Change is first”, “Let’s live a sustainable life”, “Petro, Francia, Petro, Francia”, were among the slogans chanted by the crowd.
In his speech, the frontrunner Petro vowed to build a government that prioritises life, environment and productive development. He also promised to fight inequalities, corruption, impunity, drug trafficking, paramilitarism and consolidate peace. At the same time, he urged people to remain alert in the face of a possible plan to suspend the elections or other manoeuvres to sabotage them by the outgoing far-right government of President Iván Duque.
Francia pledged to work in favour of the historically dispossessed and neglected minorities and committed to change that reality, together with Petro and the people of Colombia.
In the midst of concerns over the lives of frontrunners and the possibility of electoral fraud, the far-right government’s decision to deport United States activist and election observer Teri Mattson — Latin American coordinator for CodePink — has raised questions over the transparency of the upcoming elections.
Mattson, who was invited by one of Colombia’s most prestigious human rights organisations, the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, was detained by Colombian immigration and denied entry into the country. The official reason given for denying her entry was that she represented a risk to the state.
Common Frontiers condemned Mattson’s detention and deportation as “politically motivated”.
“Colombia has an alarming human rights crisis and a long history of intimidation and violence connected to elections,” said the group.
“We see with grave concern the fact that the Colombian State sees international elections accompaniment and human rights observation as a security risk to the state. Both of these mechanisms of international support are critical and internationally endorsed as a part of ensuring fair and transparent elections.”
[Abridged from People's Dispatch.]