Colombia: Marxist Presidential Candidate Calls Election Official a Liar, Preemptively Claims Fraud

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro of the Historical Pact coalition speaks to his suppor
AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

Radical Marxist Gustavo Petro, one of two candidates in Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, said in an interview on Thursday that national voter registrar Alexander Vega was “lying” when he insisted the country has enough security guarantees to ensure a free and fair election.

Petro, who won the first round of the presidential race in May, indicated that he would not accept the results of Sunday’s election in the event that he lost.

In Colombia, all candidates compete in a first round of voting in which the winner must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared president-elect. If no one hits that threshold, the top two vote-getters go on to a “run-off” vote in which the candidate with the most votes becomes president. Petro will be facing businessman Rodolfo Hernández, a non-ideological outsider running an anti-corruption campaign.

Rodolfo Hernández, presidential candidate with the Anti-corruption Governors League, casts his ballot during presidential elections in Bucaramanga, Colombia, Sunday, May 29, 2022.

Rodolfo Hernández, presidential candidate with the Anti-corruption Governors League, casts his ballot during presidential elections in Bucaramanga, Colombia, Sunday, May 29, 2022 (Mauricio Pinzon/AP).

While Petro – who lost the 2018 presidential election to incumbent conservative Iván Duque – won the first round of voting, polls released this week show a tight race in which Hernández enjoys a slight lead.

Petro is the former mayor of the nation’s capital, Bogotá, and a former member of the M19 Marxist terrorist guerrilla. He has spoken openly about being a member of a guerrilla and insisted that the communist organization was unlike fellow terrorist groups the National Liberation Army (ELN) or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who have waged decades of civil war against the state.

Petro’s daughter Sofía warned in an interview this week that leftists would riot if her father was not declared the nation’s next president.

Petro himself told Colombia’s Caracol Radio on Thursday that Vega, the top government official in charge of ensuring a free and fair election, was “lying” when he insisted that there was no reason to doubt Sunday’s results.

“The registrar [Vega] is lying,” Petro plainly asserted. “He says that we have guarantees and that is not true. He told me that they allow technical audits, but that is looking at 20 million lines of algorithms and one line could result in 100 more or fewer votes. That happened already.”

Petro insists there was fraud in Hernández’s favor in May’s election, which Petro won.

“If this is done on a large scale it is fraud, although it also is on a small scale,” Petro continued in the interview, claiming that the government had already declared the electoral system “weak and hackable.”

“We do not have the guarantees to tell the people that this software is trustworthy,” Petro insisted. “We saw a fault at 500 tables [voting stations] where we lost 500 votes and Rodolfo Hernández won 500 votes – it’s not the judge’s fault either because it is an algorithm issue.”

Petro insisted that he and fellow leftists would not “burn the country” over the issue in response to conservatives nationwide expressing fear that the leftist riots that consumed Colombia for much of 2019 and 2020 would return if Petro lost again.

“I like the streets, but that doesn’t mean that the unrest from a year ago was motivated by me,” Petro continued, adding, “I supported it.”

Petro’s insistence that the left would not “burn the country” if he did not win directly contradicted his daughter’s remarks in an interview this week with the Spanish newspaper El País.

“We are getting to know who Rodolfo Hernández really is and we can’t let him become president,” Sofía Petro said. “I think, in my view, that if that ends up being the case, it could cause social unrest much worse than what we saw last year.”

A leftist “national strike” against a proposal by Duque to raise taxes, which Duque rapidly shelved, evolved into national riots and terrorist attacks against police stations. Marxists firebombed police stations, destroying dozens of outposts, and raided businesses and residential communities, causing millions of dollars in damage. As is usual during leftist riots, terrorists also targeted churches, although the Catholic Church played no role in the tax proposal the riots were allegedly organized to protest. The attackers also targeted health workers and shipments of key supplies such as oxygen to hospitals treating Chinese coronavirus patients.

Civilians responded to the riots – finding little support from the Duque administration, which attempted to negotiate with the terrorists – by organizing gun and machete groups to defend their property.

Colombian law enforcement officials said Tuesday that they are preparing for mass riots by “radical groups” in response to the presidential election results.

Petro’s attack against Vega on Thursday appears to be a response to the election official demanding that the candidate respect the legitimacy of the campaign.

“He [Petro] and all of the candidates have received all the guarantees, among them information auditors for the software, the presence of election witnesses, and international observation missions,” Vega said on Tuesday in response to Petro’s comments doubting the election.

“The clear message to Dr. Gustavo Petro is that he should respect and accept the results the way he has in every other election in which he has participated,” Vega concluded.

Vega had previously insisted in May that Colombia’s electoral system was secure.

“It’s not just me saying that – the MOE [Electoral Observation Mission of Colombia], the observation missions like those of the European Union and the OAS [Organization of American States] said it too, that fraud is not possible in Colombia,” Vega told the Colombian magazine Semana. “Yes, there could be inconsistencies, there could be errors, but everything is corrected under review”:

“There cannot be fraud for a simple reason: there are various entities who intervene in the electoral process – the registrar, the parties, the review commissions, the Electoral Mission – outside of the organs of power,” Vega explained.

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