The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) joins statements concerning the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia. We implore the current government and its functionaries to abide by the will of the people and ensure the safety of members of El Pacto Histórico regardless of the election outcome. We also reaffirm our solidarity with progressive organizations and individuals doing accompaniment and electoral observation work in Colombia.
This historic election will take place on May 29, 2022 and is part of a highly contested race in which el Pacto Histórico presidential candidate Senator Gustavo Petro, and his vice-presidential running mate, Afro-Colombian Goldman Prize winner Francia Márquez Mina, have emerged as the front-runner in the polls. Petro’s victory would make him the first progressive president the country has had. Many of Petro’s proposed policies would change the economic and political status quo, including an emphasis on the implementation of the 2016 Peace Accords which sought to end decades of armed conflict.
Nevertheless, concerns of electoral fraud are rampant. Likewise, political violence in Colombia continues and Petro and Marquez have faced death threats throughout the campaign and addressed the audience at their closing rally from behind bulletproof shields.
We highlight the safety of Pacto Histórico members because political violence has permeated Colombian politics for decades, with 5 presidential candidates assassinated between 1948 to 1990. Our concern also extends to the safety of social leaders and progressive political activists all of whom do work at great personal risk, as Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders and signers of the Peace Agreement.
In addition to physical harm, we are also concerned by the amount of disinformation, such as claims that Pacto Histórico Vice Presidential Candidate Francia Márquez is funded by guerilla forces; lawfare, as displayed in the primary election with threats of recounts; and interference by the Colombian military by issuing statements in favor of candidates, an act prohibited by law.
Finally, we condemn interference with electoral observation and accompaniment such as the deportation of United States peace activist Teri Mattson of CODEPINK. Mattson is a respected peace activist and elections observer with decades of nonviolent work to her credit. Her deportation before the election creates a chilling effect for accompaniment and electoral observation. This week, an electoral observer invited by the government electoral body (CNE) in Colombia, was also turned away and denied entry into the country. International observation and solidarity at this moment is critical to ensuring free and fair elections.
The National Lawyers Guild is a co-sponsor to an international accompaniment and election observation delegation in coordination with the Alliance for Global Justice and the Peoples’ Observatory of Human Rights from Mexico with on-the-ground collaboration with the Comite Permanente de Derechos Humanos and Fundación Lazos de Dignidad.
As an organization based in the United States, we understand the complicity the US has played in funneling money into the Colombian security apparatus from counterinsurgency training in the 1950s onwards, Plan Colombia, the War on Drugs, and using Colombia as a forward operating base in Latin America. We hope the future shifts monies from militarization and policing into humanitarian aid to the people of Colombia and into fulfillment of the 2016 Peace Agreement. The people of Colombia have long sought social justice and a lasting peace—we stand in solidarity with that desire.
We are cautiously optimistic that the will of the Colombian people will prevail and that the United States and Organization of American States (OAS) will learn from Bolivia in 2020 and the United States on January 6, 2021 that democracy—as well as the inherent sovereignty of nations—is fragile and must be respected.