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Published On: Mon, Feb 12th, 2018

Colombia’s police intervenes to stop lying election candidates, ELN benefits from initiative

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : For better or for worse, the National Police of Colombia has actively begun countering false claims made by candidates in the upcoming elections and other political actors. Surprisingly, one of the beneficiaries of this initiative is the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Colombia National Police_Fake News_Feb 2018The first politician to be reprimanded was Senate candidate Claudia Bustamente from the far-right Democratic Center party of ex-president Alvaro Uribe.

Bustamente, a businesswoman from Medellin, on Friday, published a set of photos of a 2016 farmers’ strike on Twitter. So far so good, but the Senate candidate was falsely claiming that the photos showed guerrilla from Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) burning trucks as part of an ongoing shutdown imposed by the ELN.

Ironically, it was now Colombia’s National Police that came to the aid of the ELN when it responded, stressing that “this is FALSE, #FAKENEWS.

Bogota Police Director Brigadier Hoover Penilla on Sunday warned the public that spreading disinformation for electoral gain is illegal and “will have legal consequences.” The National Police also dismissed a tweet sent out by a Panamanian politician Guillermo Cochez falsely claiming another ELN attack.

During the ongoing election campaign the peace accord with the FACR-EP, the political participation of the FARC, and peace negotiations between the State and the ELN have become even more controversial and polarizing issues than usual. Many analysts believe that the current breakdown ks between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN is caused by election posturing, gravely aggravated by false reports about ELN attacks.

President Juan Manuel Santos last month announced the creation of an electoral intelligence unit that would counter and investigate the possible use of disinformation in the elections.

Ex-president Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party admitted to using disinformation in the campaign leading up to a 2016 referendum on a peace agreement with Marxist FARC-EP guerrillas. An American former Defense official claimed last month that Russia was trying to interfere in elections in Colombia and other Latin American nations that are holding elections this year.

While many welcome the National Police’ participation in clarifying what is and what isn’t truthful reporting, and while many will be surprised that the beneficiary of the police intervention apparently is the ELN, police and the administration could potentially set a dangerous precedent where an executive branch including presidency and police get to decide what is true, what allegedly is FAKE NEWS, and how to intervene against persons and organizations that are disseminating “allegedly” fake news during an election campaign. It is clearly a two-edged sword.

CH/L – nsnbc 12.02.2018

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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