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| 2/5/2009 12:00:00 AM

Third Term for Uribe Threatens Colombian Democracy

Feb 05 -- Colombia's see-saw struggle over whether to allow a third, four-year term for President Álvaro Uribe shows little sign of being settled soon.

Uribe was initially elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006 after a constitutional one-term limit was overturned. In 2008, four million Colombians signed a petition in favor of a second constitutional reform that would allow Uribe to stand once again in the 2010 polls. Now, despite a farcical error in the petition's wording, it may well receive congressional support.

The Colombian president has avoided stating his own position on the matter clearly. Yet he is facing growing opposition from opinion leaders and his own supporters over the risks for Colombia's institutions that a second reelection would cause.

"[With the first reelection], there's no risk for the quality of democracy," says Sen. Marta Lucía Ramírez, Uribe's first defense minister and a declared candidate to succeed him. "But in a third term, it would be difficult maintain checks and balances. There would an excessively strong executive power."

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