The Washington Post | 5/30/2010 12:00:00 AM
In Colombia, presidential race is no done deal
May 30--In speech after speech, Juan Manuel Santos, candidate to succeed President Alvaro Uribe in Sunday's election, reminds his audience that he was Uribe's defense minister when the most decisive blows were delivered against the country's much-reviled guerrillas.
The two candidates are in a virtual tie in at least four recent polls, and neither is expected to get the 50 percent needed to win outright Sunday. If that happens, a runoff between the two will take place June 20.
Mockus's momentum has created a dilemma for Santos, 58, a Harvard-educated economist who is a favorite in Washington for having shepherded billions in U.S. military aid for the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. Political analysts said Santos needs to retool his campaign so that he benefits from what Colombians like about Uribe while distancing himself from what they do not, namely a string of scandals that have marred his two-term presidency.
"Being associated with the Uribe government is a mixed blessing," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group that studies Latin America. "There's success, but the administration is also associated with a lot of problems and a lot of scandal."
Just three months ago, pundits predicted that Santos would cruise to victory.
In a country obsessed with security, he had overseen an army that recuperated territory once under guerrilla control while killing or capturing rebel commanders once thought invincible. Santos also extolled extensive economic experience, having served as minister of finance and commerce, and his close ties with lawmakers in Washington and Europe.
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