The Electoral Observation Mission, a Colombia NGO that monitors elections and is partially funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, has rescinded its accreditation of Raquel Mogollón and other observers representing the Alliance for Global Justice in the heavy conflict area of northern Cauca. They say it is too dangerous. However, Raquel and the other observation and accompaniment team will still be there. Yes, we know about the danger. We have visited this area many times since our first time in 2009. We have cried with our friends and partners after one after another social leader, human rights defender, peace accord signer–and friends– have been murdered in politically motivated assaults. We know this sort of thing is happening all over rural Colombia, the areas most affected by paramilitary violence and most vulnerable to fraud. If observers and accompaniers do not go to the most vulnerable and threatened places, how can we say these elections are truly and adequately monitored? But we believe in, we defend, democratic rights even when it means going where others are afraid to go. That’s what real international solidarity looks like!
Please read the powerful letter that Raquel sent as a response when she learned that MOE had pulled our authorization:
TO THE ELECTORAL OBSERVATION MISSION (MOE):
Thank you for your careful attention to the difficult situation in northern Cauca for the safety and well-being of your volunteer election observers in Colombia. I extend my appreciation and esteem to you for your personal and warm attention in trying to support us by insisting on observing where we felt it was most needed. You should know that we have decided to continue with our commitment in the territories from which you are withdrawing your certification in the vulnerable communities that most need observation and accompaniment.
However, and with all due respect, this “understood” official withdrawal of the MOE cannot pass without saying that it is more difficult for us international observers to understand how Colombia can expect to hold open and fair national elections with free participation of citizens in their right to democratic process, when the observation entities themselves have to withdraw at risk, from a large part of a department like Cauca, historically abandoned by the state in human rights, and in basic social, educational, environmental, services, etc.
What is happening in the villages of Corinto, Miranda, and other municipalities in northern Cauca is an emblematic situation for many rural regions throughout the country. These are the populations most affected by the threats, assassinations, and forced displacement that plague their communities. They are the communities most affected by electoral violence and “irregularities”. And these regions represent the sources of the deepest struggles that have colored every aspect of Colombian life, even in the cities where so many internal refugees live. We are not unaware of the threats in the region. We know personally, for example, Hector Marino Carabali, an Afro-descendant social leader, who was threatened three days before the first round of elections by the paramilitary Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles). We have visited the Elvira collective farm in Miranda several times, where on June 5, an indigenous leader of his community, José Ernesto Cuetia Yajué, was assassinated (by “chance” he was campaigning for the Historic Pact). We know about the explosion that happened the other day in Corinto. We know that situations like this happen all over Colombia. Thus, our commitment to electoral integrity and democracy means that we must go to northern Cauca on June 19, 2022.
The reality of the said Colombian democracy has presented itself in a multitude of “irregular” revelations and of actual outrage for a long time as the more or less accepted “custom” of buying votes, but let’s focus on these last days and weeks waiting for the second round. To note as examples of the general and undemocratic atmosphere:
- The open order to capture a few days before the second round of voting dozens of young political opposition members in several cities, members of the 2021 National Strike’s “Front Line”.
- Several examples of public threats from businessmen or managers to their employees related to consequences that will be suffered by anyone who votes for the Historic Pact, this representing the casualness of such illegal acts as a kind of national norm indicating likelihood of impunity.
- Published threats that continue to come out against human rights defenders and social leaders by paramilitary actors naming “Petristas” as military targets.
- SO MANY assassinations following signatories of the Peace?!
- The same PARAMILITARISM always operating even openly and recorded in concert with the National Police and ESMAD during the National Strike of #28A against peaceful protesters and the now persecuted and repressed members of First Line for thinking differently!
We are talking about the obvious suppression of the vote and these few examples highlight the sad and intolerable truth that threatens an entire brave people who have already endured and excelled against even the most unspeakable traumas to get to this second round with such high hopes and only want to mark their own X for a dignified and just future.
I hope you receive this letter as a serious but respectful challenge to avoid giving undue legitimacy to a terribly inadequate, inconsistent and systematically irresponsible electoral process (including the outrage of not having an impartial and exhaustive independent audit of the privately contracted software!), whose voters deserve and depend on our honest, thorough and extended evaluation with the passion we share for equal opportunity and transparency in full participatory democracy in Colombia and the world.
Raquel Cristina Mogollón
former international observer for the MOE in Corinto, northern Cauca, Colombia.
from Tucson, AZ, USA
June 18, 2022