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Cablegate: Election Risk Maps Highlight Regional Threats

VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #7350/01 2842114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 112114Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9445
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9405
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 8961
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5498
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0709
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6095
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4109
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1851

UNCLAS BOGOTA 007350

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR CO
SUBJECT: ELECTION RISK MAPS HIGHLIGHT REGIONAL THREATS

REF: A. BOGOTA 6688 B. BOGOTA 6013

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

1. In mid-September, the civil society Electoral Observation
Mission (MOE) published maps identifying 576 of Colombia's
1099 municipalities as at risk for violence or electoral
fraud during the October 28 departmental and municipal
elections. Interior Minister Carlos Holguin dismissed the
MOE figures as exaggerated, putting the number of
municipalities at risk at 79. Opposition leaders said the
GOC's estimate accurately identifies the areas at risk of
violence, but said MOE's higher number better captures the
danger of electoral fraud or illegal campaign spending. The
GOC has taken numerous steps to protect candidates and limit
electoral irregularities. MOE and the OAS will deploy
election observers to support GOC efforts; most expect the
elections to occur with few serious incidents. End Summary.

-----------------------------------------
MOE RISK MAP: 576 MUNICIPALITIES AT RISK?
-----------------------------------------

2. In mid-September, the civil society group Electoral
Observation Mission (MOE) published a series of election risk
maps indicating that 576 of Colombia's 1099 municipalities
are at some risk for violence or electoral fraud in the
October 28 departmental and municipal elections. The maps
reflect eleven variables that measure the threat to electoral
integrity, including a tradition of voter fraud or
manipulation, the presence of illegal armed groups, and a
history of political violence (see ref A). The departments
at greatest risk are Meta, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, and
Caqueta.

---------------------------------
GOC RESPONSE: 79 IS MORE ACCURATE
---------------------------------

3. Minister of Interior and Justice Carlos Holguin dismissed
the MOE figure as exaggerated. He estimated that only 79
municipalities, mostly in sparsely populated rural areas,
face significant risks, and said the GOC is taking measures
to safeguard the process in these areas. Holguin said the
GOC will assign 75,000 police and 102,000 military personnel
to protect polling stations during elections, and is
providing special protection to candidates at risk. The GOC
has also transferred local registrars in districts at risk
for fraud, held weekly local coordination meetings with
security and other institutions, and set up a rapid
deployment force to prevent and investigate election
irregularities (see reftels).

4. Despite the GOC efforts, attacks against candidates
continue, albeit at lower levels than in the past. Local
think tank director Leon Valencia said the FARC and other
illegal armed groups are the greatest threats to elections.
Valencia agreed the 79 municipalities named by the GOC are at
greatest risk, and said MOE and other groups had higher
figures because they used general criteria (like the
"presence" of armed groups) in their analysis. Liberal Party
official Rafael Pardo said the GOC's estimate of 79
municipalities accurately identifies the areas at risk of
violence, but said MOE's higher estimate better reflects the
danger of electoral fraud or illegal campaign spending. A
senior GOC official agreed that illegal campaign finance and
vote buying would be major problems in many departments.

------------------------------------------
UNANIMOUS: 2007 RISKS MUCH LOWER THEN PAST
------------------------------------------

5. Our contacts, including MOE, acknowledge there have been
far fewer deaths, kidnappings and threats to candidates
during the 2007 election season than in previous campaigns.
In many municipalities, political parties and candidates have
pledged to adhere to guidelines proposed by the GOC regarding
campaign contributions and candidate selection. Moreover,
local registrars and inspector generals (procuradoria)
continue to provide more oversight of pre-election activities
than in recent years. Candidates from leftist parties,
including the Polo Democratico, are running in areas
previously dominated by armed groups and paramilitaries. In
cooperation with the GOC, MOE (supported by USAID) will
deploy 10,000 trained observers on election day. The OAS
electoral observation mission and other independent
observation initiatives are also set to support GOC efforts
to mitigate threats and limit electoral irregularities.
Brownfield

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