Colombia to deploy 260,000 soldiers, police to monitor congressional elections

Posted on Mar 7 2014 - 2:18pm by Rico
(Photo: Mindefensa)

Colombia’s minister of defense announced Friday that over 260,000 members of the national security forces will be deployed throughout the country to monitor Sunday’s congressional elections.

Much of the focus will be placed in rural areas, said the minister, where illegal armed groups are active and the risk of voter intimidation and fraud is higher.

MORE: 300 complaints over fraud in Colombia’s upcoming congress election

“Four years ago 204,000 members of the security forces guaranteed coverage and security at the election,” said Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon, at a press conference held on the subject. “This year 266,590 men are to be deployed,” a roughly 30% increase since the 2010 elections.

The security forces will be monitoring 1,935 polling stations nationwide and will be on duty from midnight Saturday until the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) reports that the election has successfully concluded.

The first deployment occurred on Thursday, with the Air Force reporting a delivery of 89 policeman to Tame, Arauca, in eastern Colombia, via Boeing 737.

In an attempt to quell concerns stemming from early reports of electoral fraud and political violence, the minister stated that the transfer of armed forces from major cities to more rural municipalities is the ministry’s highest priority in the immediate buildup to elections.

According to Pinzon,”There were 70 attacks on political offices and parties [prior to the 2010 elections]. This year there were only 11, with just three against candidates.”

MORE: UNASUR To Monitor Colombia’s Upcoming Congressional And Presidential Elections

Certain states have also taken their own measures, such as Cordoba, in the north of the country, where Police Colonel Carlos Vargas has stated that 3,800 police officers are to be stationed at polling stations throughout the state in order to maintain peace and control during the voting process.

The Antioqiuan capital of Medellin will also implement its own security measures, with the mayor announcing that 2,300 police officers are to be distributed to 124 polling stations both in the city center and its surrounding districts. Additionally, more than 5,400 soldiers will be watching areas related to citizen security around the polling stations, from squares to residential areas, to shopping areas, tourist sites, transportation networks and airport terminals.

The elections on Sunday will shape the new Congress, which will officially take office on July 20.


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