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Cablegate: Transparent Election Process and Greater Political

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #7323 2841511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111511Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9429
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9397
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT LIMA 5489
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6091
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4108
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS BOGOTA 007323

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: TRANSPARENT ELECTION PROCESS AND GREATER POLITICAL
SPACE IN APARTADO


--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. Local candidates and officials in Apartado (Antioquia
department) told us preparations for the October elections
are proceeding in a transparent manner. Local candidates said
the current environment allowed a broader "political space"
to campaign freely and had few complaints about how local
officials are handling the election process. The candidates
have not received threats and are satisfied with the level of
security provided by local police. Vote-selling by
campesinos remains a concern, but candidates and officials
did not expect the practice to significantly affect the
outcome of the elections. End Summary.

2. Poloff traveled to Apartado on September 20, to meet with
the local Registrar, the Mayor's office, local police and
candidates for the Mayoral race from the U party, Polo
Democratico Alternativo, the Liberal Party, the Moviemiento
Colombia Viva, and Colombia Democratica.

------------------------------------
POLITICAL SPACE, TRANSPARENT PROCESS
------------------------------------

3. Candidates for the Mayor's office in Apartado stressed
the open nature of the elections, saying each candidate has
been able to run a smooth campaign. Though candidates from
Polo Democratico and the U party both expressed concern over
campaign financing, both referred to money coming from
legitimate companies and not illegal groups. The candidates
said they seen no sign of any influence from illegal armed
actors within the city. They stressed that selling votes is
a historical practice that is widespread. Though some illegal
groups may buy votes outside the city in rural areas, it
would likely have a minimal impact on the overall outcome.

4. The Office of the Registrar said there are 134,000
habitants of Apartado, but only 63,000 possess the valid
cedulas (government identification cards) needed to vote. Of
this number, a portion (number unknown) have fled Apartado
due to violence, and would likely not return to vote. It is
the voters' responsibility to change the registration of
their cedula to vote in their new location. There is no
absentee process in Colombia. The Office of the Registrar
estimates that 10% of eligible voters live outside the city
of Apartado in rural areas (including San Jose de Apartado)
and of this number, only 50% are likely to vote. This is in
line with national (45%) and departmental (46.5%) voting
rates in past elections. There are currently ten candidates
running for Mayor, and the Registrar has received no
complaints of threats against candidates.

--------------------------------------------- -
SECURITY A CONCERN, BUT CANDIDATES ARE CONTENT
--------------------------------------------- -

5. Violence against candidates has been an issues in the
past, but the candidates in Apartado uniformly stated they
have been happy with the security provided by the local
police. Captain Vega of the Apartado police meets regularly
with both the candidates and the Office of the Registrar to
monitor and evaluate security risks, providing roving patrols
and bodyguards to those that need or request them. None of
the candidates believes there will be significant violence in
Apartado during the election process. Still, security at
polling places is a concern in many rural areas.
Brownfield

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