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| 10/21/2009 12:00:00 AM

Colombia's democracy under threat

Oct 21--Rory Carroll reports from Colombia on supporters' attempts to change the constitution to allow President ­Alvaro Uribe a third term. Uribe is well-liked, but could be a threat to democracy

Colombia is running a rebranding campaign to convince tourists that the world’s former kidnap capital is now safe to visit. TV adverts show Bogotá boutiques, white sand beaches and smiling indigenous folk before a voice dipped in honey delivers the line: “The only risk is wanting to stay”.

It’s a clever campaign that works because the message is true. Colombia has become a safe and attractive destination for foreigners. Pablo Escobar is long dead and leftist guerrillas have been pushed deep into the jungle. Some 1.2 million tourists visited last year, double the number in 2002. Foreign investment has also jumped. It is an impressive turnaround for a country that once verged on being a failed state.

That line, however, has a darker meaning if applied to President ­Alvaro Uribe, now almost eight years in office; supporters are on the brink of changing the constitution to allow him a third term from next year. It was amended in 2006 to give him a second.

Uribe has been coy about whether he will seek election, but has done nothing to discourage his supporters’ constitutional moves.

The dilemma for Colombia is the risk to democracy if Uribe remains in power. Supporters say this idea is ­ridiculous. They believe the tough conservative leader saved democracy. He stood up to the Farc guerrillas, made the army strong and cities safe. He brought jobs, investment, stability. And Uribe is popular; polls predict a landslide if he is allowed to run next year. Supporters ask: what would be so bad about that?
 
Read more here.
 
Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.
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EDICIÓN 1844

PORTADA

Francisco superstar

La esperada visita del papa a Colombia tiene tres dimensiones: una religiosa, una política y otra social. ¿Qué puede esperarse de la peregrinación del sumo pontífice?