BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s government will provide left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro with extra security after he canceled part of his campaign tour amid reports of a threat to kill him, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios said on Tuesday.
Petro canceled events in the country’s coffee region on Monday over a plot by a crime gang known as La Cordillera to assassinate him, his office said.
The candidate, who is the front-runner in Colombia’s presidential election, had been set to travel to the region, including the city of Manizales, on Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the vote on May 29.
Though Colombia’s National Police initially said it did not know of a plot to kill Petro, on Tuesday it said it had received information regarding the plot from Petro’s campaign and that a “rigorous” investigation was under way.
“Due to the measures (Petro’s) campaign has requested, we will adopt additional measures (…) for its movements and other incidents, specifically in demonstrations or public gatherings,” Palacios said in a audio message shared with journalists via Whatsapp.
La Cordillera, which operates largely in the coffee region, has been blamed by police for the death of a local organizer of last year’s anti-government marches.
Petro led an opinion poll last week with 43.6% of prospective first-round votes, while his closest rival, the center-right Federico Gutierrez, tallied 26.7%.
Petro has attracted support on his promises to right profound income inequality in the Andean country, including via a redistribution of pension savings. But investors have warned the pension plan and his pledge to halt new oil projects could put the country’s economic stability at risk.
The 62-year-old will face a divided congress if he wins the presidency, with centrist and right-leaning parties largely throwing their support behind Gutierrez.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin. Editing by Gerry Doyle)