Local elections in Colombia‘s second city, Medellin, have seen fresh allegations about candidates’ links to criminal gangs and paramilitaries.
Incumbent Mayor Alonso Salazar has accused mayoral candidate Luis Perez of receiving support from paramilitaries and criminal gangs during his failed 2007 campaign, and claims there is evidence that he continues to receive such support in the current campaign.
Salazar’s claims followed reports by Caracol Radio that it had access to witness statements indicating that Perez received paramilitary support in his 2007 campaign.
Among the allegations in the statements are that Perez paid criminal and paramilitary figures for their backing, including now-extradited leader of the Oficina de Envigado gang, Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna.” Other alleged supporters included priest turned paramilitary leader Oscar Alberto Ortiz, and Antonio Lopez, alias “Job,” spokesman for the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
Perez hit back with a counter-claim that Salazar had used criminal gangs in the 2007 campaign, and claimed there was evidence that Murillo had supported Salazar’s 2007 campaign.
Meanwhile a number of candidates in Medellin’s local elections have complained of being prevented from campaigning in various areas of the city by criminal gangs supporting other candidates. The Green Party claimed that some areas of the city are effectively closed off to their candidates.
Perez has also claimed that those canvassing in support of his campaign have faced restrictions in several areas of the city but did not name specific locations, saying that he wished to “avoid stigmatizing any neighborhood.”