The Christian Science Monitor | 5/28/2010 12:00:00 AM
Colombia election ends reign of 'savior' Álvaro Uribe
May 28--Álvaro Uribe brought security to a nation that once inspired Hollywood drug-trafficking film 'Clear and Present Danger.' But his scandals could sink would-be successor Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia's May 30 presidential vote.
When Colombian courts struck down his bid for a third term, it still seemed that his free-market, tough-on-guerrillas policies would live robustly on with his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who was well ahead in polls.
But suddenly, the race is neck and neck. Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and former mayor of Bogotá, has surged in the polls. And whoever wins could shape the perceptions of the legacy of Mr. Uribe, who is widely credited with wresting control from leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries and giving many Colombians the sense of "normalcy" that they savor today.
Uribe remains wildly popular, with 70 percent approval ratings. And in some ways, the surge of Mr. Mockus shows Uribe's success in the area most important to voters: democratic security. No matter who wins, the next Colombian president is likely to chart the same course when it comes to drug traffickers, rebels, and paramilitaries.
"He achieved a consensus on public opinion about security as a vital element in society," says Rafael Nieto, a political analyst who served with Uribe as vice minister of justice. "Today there is no one not willing to continue his policies."
But many Colombians say they are fatigued with Uribe's administration, particularly by the political and human rights scandals that have dogged his presidency. In that sense, Santos seems to be more of the same. In Mockus, they say, they expect more transparency and rule of law. A Mockus victory, however, could highlight the flaws in Uribe's time in office, undermining the image of a man who, until recently, was seen by many as the only viable way forward for the country.
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