Colombian bishop decries assassination of mayoral candidate

Colombia Flag Credit Polit cnico Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 8 27 15 The flag of Colombia. | Grancolombiano Departamento de Comunicaciones via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The secretary general of the Colombian bishops' conference has deplored the assassination of Karina García, a mayoral candidate in the country's southwest, and called for an end to the bloodshed in the country.

García, 31, was running for mayor of Suárez, in Cauca Department. She was killed in a Sept. 1 ambush along with her mother and four others.

Bishop Elkin Fernando Álvarez Botero, auxiliary bishop of Medellin, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Sept. 3 that "as a Church we receive with profound sorrow this murder of one of the candidates for local office. We sent a message in the past few days with an appeal to avoid all forms of violence in the political campaigns, but this murder is a sign that we're returning to those ways of violence which do not allow us to move forward."

According to BBC World News Spanish edition, prosecutors indicated that the vehicle the victims were riding in was ambushed by another car crosswise in the middle of the road. Several men got out with high powered weapons, who fired on García and those accompanying her. They then pulled the bodies out of the vehicle and incinerated it.

The Colombian Liberal Party candidate had been warning for several weeks that her life was in danger. She began to get worried when unidentified persons began painting her campaign posters black.

Garcia also charged that fake news started to appear about her saying that if she becomes the mayor of Suárez, she would bring in paramilitaries and take away land from the people, accusations which she denied.

"I ask the other candidates and their supporters to not continue making, in face of these armed groups, irresponsible commentaries about my candidacy (…) For God's sake, don't be irresponsible! This could have consequences for me, even fatal ones," García said in a video posted a few days ago.

Álvarez told ACI Prensa, "This is a very serious situation. Just as we are saddened by the death of this candidate we are also grieved by all the lives that are being ended in Colombia because of the violence."

"We have to get back to valuing life as a gift from God.  Not just that of the community leaders, whose deaths are painful because they're ending the hopes of the country, but of all human lives," he said.

The bishop recalled the importance of participating in elections, and encouraged the candidates to run "political campaigns according to democratic principles that actually help and not divide."

"The message we want to send to the candidates and the voters is let's not polarize the country any more, let's seek unity and let's run principled democratic campaigns."

Álvarez asked "those who still continue to take the path of violence, to be very aware that with violence, death and eliminating people, we're not going to achieve anything for the country."

"The violence has got to end. No more bloodshed," he concluded.

Regional and municipal elections will be held in Colombia at the end of October. To be elected are governors for the 32 administrative districts representatives to the district assemblies, mayors of 1,099 towns, city council members, and members of the local administrative boards of the national territory.

The BBC also reported that different institutions maintain that between 200 and 400 community leaders have been killed in the last three years.

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