Monday, June 21, 2010

Staunch Uribe ally wins Colombian presidency

Several weeks ago former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos nearly won the Colombian presidency in the first round. Yesterday he easily won the runoff with roughly seven of every ten voters choosing him over ex-Bogota mayor and independent candidate Antanas Mockus. Over nine million voters chose Santos, more than the tally received in the previous two elections by the soon-to-be outgoing president Alvaro Uribe.

How did Santos accomplish such a decisive victory? Several reasons according to Colombia’s such as Santos running with the strengths of the government’s so-called “democratic security policy” as well as positioning himself as the successor to the highly popular Uribe. Santos appeared to be helped by an increase in abstentions due to inclement weather, attention towards the World Cup, and polls that signaled that he would easily win. Mockus admitted that he made costly mistakes in his campaign that cost him dearly and he did not sufficiently appeal to the average voter. The rescue of four hostages held by the FARC rebels exactly one week before the runoff may’ve served as an “October surprise” from Uribe to his loyal ally.

Santos will be inaugurated this August not only with an electoral mandate but also with an Uribista majority in the legislature. Nevertheless, his challenges are many including avoiding the many political scandals that dogged Uribe during his eight years of power. Though Santos boasted in victory that he would not negotiate with the FARC, he may have to shift some of his security priorities to combating growing crime in Colombian cities. Santos may continue Uribe’s “pro-business reforms” that have made him a ”darling of Colombian and foreign businesses” yet he cannot ignore the country’s moderately high unemployment rate and growing economic inequality. His top foreign affairs priority is to repair fractured relations with Venezuela and to a lesser extent Ecuador but he will also have to improve diplomatic efforts to ensure good relations with the White House. Finally, he will have to live up to his promises of leading a “national unity” government and avoid demonizing the opposition like Uribe had the tendency to do.

Image- Christian Science Monitor
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Los Angeles Times,, El Espectador, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, BBC News, Reuters,

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