Days before Colombians head to the polls to elect a new president, Colombia’s National Chief of Police, General Jorge Luis Vargas, and government-loyal media have begun promoting conspiracy theories about an alleged plot orchestrated by Gustavo Petro supporters. The allegations claim political activists were threatening violence should the opposition candidate lose in Sunday’s elections.

Police began arresting dozens of social leaders, members of alternative media, and so-called “Primera Linea” (i.e. “front-line”) groups that played a leading role in last year’s protests. In addition, the police have undertaken massive surveillance operations, with reports of over 600 wire tappings of social leaders’ phones. 

Vargas offered no proof for his accusations, rather he referred to social networks of anonymous profiles on the dark web to support his claims of conspiracies to commit violence. Moreover, to date, none of the detainees have been arrested on charges related to the government’s conspiracy theory. Instead, they have been detained for outstanding arrest warrants for participating in the 2021 protests.  

Common Frontiers and the Colombian Working Group condemn the massive state surveillance operations, violence, and intimidation perpetrated by the Colombian state against its own people. These types of actions have no place in a democratic country. They are further attacks on the electoral process through the intimidation and silencing of government critics and supporters of the opposition candidate, Gustavo Petro. President Iván Duque appears to be more worried about conspiracy theories than he is about protecting Colombia’s democracy and ensuring fair and free elections this coming Sunday, 19 June.

We call on the government of Colombia to uphold basic democratic norms and refrain from interfering in and compromising, the electoral process. Colombia’s inability to guarantee free and fair elections could threaten electoral peace. 

We also draw attention to Canada’s concerning relationship with Colombia:

  • Canada has been silent about the high level of criminalization and violence ahead of Colombia’s elections. The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) of Colombia reported that the pre-electoral period of the 2021-2022 legislative elections represents the most violent of the last 12 years in the nation.
  • Canada sells light-armored vehicles to Colombia despite human-rights abuses. This is in spite of  Colombian human rights defenders calling on the Canadian government to stop supplying the Public Force/Fuerza Publica (the military and police) following the violence seen during the national strike/paro nacional in 2021.

For more information contact Raul Burbano Tel 416 522 8615.