BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia will increase protection for political candidates running in October’s local and regional elections after the murders of seven aspirants, President Ivan Duque said on Monday.
The killings have sparked renewed calls for more to be done to prevent political violence in the country, where hundreds of community leaders and human rights activists have also been murdered.
Some 117,000 people are running for provincial governorships, mayorships and seats on provincial legislatures and local councils in the Oct. 27 contests. Two hundred and thirty-six of them have some level of protection from the National Protection Unit.
“We have spoken today with all of the parties to strengthen protection measures, so the National Protection Unit (UNP) can respond with more speed to the requests, but it also shows there have been significant advances on the part of the UNP,” Duque said after meeting with security, election and judicial officials, referencing the agency that provides bodyguards and other protections to public figures.
“All of the requests for protection that have been received so far need to be up-to-date in the next 72 hours,” Duque added. “We have also asked the parties to take general protection measures where they tell security forces about (candidates’) movements.”
Investigations into the murders were advancing, Duque said, referencing two arrests in the murder of a mayoral candidate in Antioquia province and the killing of the “intellectual author” of another candidate’s murder in Cauca province.
Six candidates were murdered during campaigning in 2015 local and regional elections, Duque added.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Marguerita Choy)