Two unidentified men hurled a grenade into the home of Betsaida Montejo Pérez, a mayoral candidate in the remote town of San Calixto, North Santander, Colombia, late Tuesday – the second major attack on a woman running for office in the country since the narco-terrorist FARC organization declared war on the country last week.
North Santander police commander Jesús Manuel de los Reyes Valencia revealed the attack Wednesday and urged the public to provide any information that could help police identify any assailants.
Montejo is running for mayor on a campaign of “urban development” and emphasizes in her campaign material her humble local background and close relationships with locals. She has not publicly attacked the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or any other communist terrorist group operating in the country in her campaign literature.
North Santander is close to the Colombian border with Venezuela, whose socialist dictatorship has deep ties to the FARC and other international terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. A video last week showcasing FARC leaders calling for Colombians to take up weapons against the government is believed to have been filmed in Venezuela.
San Calixto, in particular, has been ravaged by drug trafficking and communist violence. Far from Bogotá, the capital, terrorists have caused tremendous environmental damage, planting coca leaf for the manufacture of cocaine, and have for years terrorized the local communities.
Esto es lo que deja la coca. Los colombianos necesitamos todos las herramientas para detener este ecocidio. Estas imágenes las tomé hace tres semanas en San Calixto, Catatumbo. Siguen deforestando para sembrar coca. pic.twitter.com/bmKd99w35f
— Rafael Guarín (@RafaGuarin) March 6, 2019
According to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, Montejo was not home when two men on motorcycle hurled a grenade into her house on Tuesday, leaving significant property damage but resulting in no injury. Montejo’s parents were home, however, and reportedly traumatized by the incident. The bomb reportedly landed on the roof area over the main living space of the home.
“We strongly condemn this terrorist event against our candidate and encourage citizens of San Calixto to offer us information and help us find the perpetrators of this lamentable act,” de los Reyes told reporters.
Speaking to La Opinión – a newspaper based in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta – a “visibly affected” Montejo said on Thursday that she was taking a few days off of the campaign trail to regroup after the attack, but she was not withdrawing from the race.
Montejo said she had not received any threats to suspend her campaign and did not feel particularly unsafe campaigning, as local neighbors supported her and helped organize campaign events.
“The very presidents of the neighborhood groups are the ones who come and accompany us,” Montejo said. “If we have to stay home, the community action groups lend us venues and the community always joins us with cars and motorcycles.”
She did note that a pamphlet had circulated in San Calixto signed by an “armed illegal group” banning political marches, which Montejo did not believe applied to her.
Montejo does not address guerrilla violence or drug crime in most of the materials available on her official campaign Facebook page. Her videos instead emphasize local support, documenting rallies and parties to support her campaign. The videos clearly show San Calixto as a remote, undeveloped area, though Montejo is campaigning in part on bringing “urban development” to the town.
La Opinión noted that, despite her not mentioning it to their reporter, her campaign had posted condemning the destruction of her campaign literature around town in late August, urging opponents to simply campaign against her rather than destroy her work.
The bombers left graffiti on Montejo’s home that alluded to the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), a communist terrorist organization that now primarily dedicates itself to drug cultivation and trafficking. The Spanish newswire service EFE reported that the EPL was “largely disbanded” in 1991, but Catatumbo, the region where San Calixto is located, affords members ample space for drug trafficking with minimal police intrusion, which has allowed it to continue to exist. It is a rich environment for similar groups such as the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the communist guerrilla that most actively attempted to kill Colombian officials while the FARC negotiated the 2016 peace deal that legitimized their leaders as members of Congress.
Montejo is the second likely victim of communist terrorism in the region in the past month. ELN terrorists abducted Tulio Mosquera Asprilla, a mayoral candidate in the town of Alto Baudó, in late August.
She is also the second woman attacked this week for running a local campaign that appeared to dissatisfy local communists. While Montejo survived, on the other side of the country, Karina García Sierra was found dead in her SUV with five other people, including her mother and a city council candidate, on Monday. She had not been seen in her native Suárez town in Cauca since leaving Friday through a rural area.
Police have identified a FARC terrorist known as “Majin Boo” as the culprit. “Majin Boo” controls most of the lucrative marijuana cultivation in the area, according to police.
Unlike Montejo, García was aware that she was a target and published a video shortly before her death imploring political opponents to stop using incendiary language against her that could inspire an assassination.
“Four armed subjects claiming to be from an illegal group [said they] had a direct order to prevent my campaign literature from being posted and to remove what has already been distributed,” García said in the video. “[People say] that I’m going to bring in paramilitaries, I’m going to bring in multinationals [corporations], I am going to take land from people. My God, don’t be irresponsible, this could have fatal consequences for me.”
FARC leaders “Jesús Santrich,” who is a Colombian senator thanks to the 2016 deal, and “Iván Márquez,” who rejected his Senate seat, announced a new terrorism campaign last week “under the universal right of all the peoples of the world to rise up in arms against oppression.”
The “new stage of struggle to awaken consciousnesses” would target the “oligarchy,” Márquez said, without defining who qualifies as belonging to it.