Violence, abstention mars presidential elections in Colombia

08:24, June 21, 2010      

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The deaths of at least 16 policemen, military and guerrilla marred the presidential elections in which Colombians will choose the next president from Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus on Sunday.

Continuing rain in most regions and The World Cup also led to that abstention of 14.7 million voters, which is higher than the first round, among Colombian electorate of 29.9 million people.

The cloudy, cold and wet weather was compounded by the death of seven policemen, who were killed after stepping on a minefield in a rural area Northern Santander's department, bordering Venezuela, police sources confirmed to Xinhua.

The sources said a patrol was harassed on a road between the towns of Tibu and Tres Bocas, by which policemen traveling in a truck that was apparently ambushed by National Liberation Army ( ELN) stepped on mines after getting out of the truck.

Two other soldiers were killed by the Revolutionary armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in rural areas of the department of Meta and a military was killed in Antioquia.

"The soldiers were doing their duty ... they were attacked by the FARC narco-terrorists," lamented Defense Minister Gabriel Silva. In addition, Army troops in a rural area of the municipality of Plateaus, department of Meta, killed six rebels, who were trying to disrupt the elections in the region.

Additionally, nine members of FARC were captured in Buenaventura's port, on the Pacific coast, who apparently went to "implement terrorist attacks." The rebels also burned electoral materials in one location of the Northern department of Santander, bordering Venezuela. About 29.9 million Colombians are called to the polls to elect a new president for 2010-2014, succeeding Uribe, who ruled for eight years continuously.

Since January the guerrillas stepped up their attacks in different regions of the country, and in the days before the presidential elections as they did before.

On this occasion, the target is aimed at the runner Juan Manuel Santos, who according to surveys is a fierce opponent of guerrillas.

He served as defense minister since July 2006 until May 2009, a period in which he clashed with guerrillas and Colombian paramilitaries, particularly the FARC.

Under his ministry effective military forces handed hits to the guerrillas such as the death of deputy leader of the FARC Luis Edgar Devia, alias "Raul Reyes", the rescue of French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, three Americans and 11 hostages in 2008.

The murders of this day add up to the ones Saturday when two soldiers and three guerrillas were killed in a fight, while regional authorities seized explosives and communication equipment.

So far, 350,000 police and military guarantee safety for citizens in 99 percent of the Colombian territory. The rain and deaths are added factors that increase the abstention in the elections, taking into account that only three million voters, a few under 30 million Colombians enabled to go to the polls in the first three hours of elections.

Source: Xinhua


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