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| 5/25/2010 12:00:00 AM

A Tight Election in Colombia Exposes a Generational Divide in Queens

May 25--As Colombia prepares for national elections on Sunday, the close contest between Mr. Mockus and Mr. Santos has exposed a generational divide among voters thousands of miles away in Queens, which is home to most of the 120,000 or so Colombians living in the city.

Luis Guillermo Cano and Diana Pacheco moved to New York City from Colombia around the same time and for the same reason: to escape the drug gangs and guerrilla groups that had terrorized much of their country for decades.

But that is about all they have in common. Mr. Cano and Ms. Pacheco are 20 years apart in age, and their vastly different memories of life in Colombia set them on a political collision course on a recent Sunday over who should be their homeland’s next president.
Ms. Pacheco, 23, who lives in Elmhurst, Queens, supports Antanas Mockus, a progressive mathematician and philosopher credited with sparking the transformation of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, during his tenure as its mayor.

Mr. Cano, 43, who lives in neighboring Jackson Heights, backs Juan Manuel Santos, a former defense minister under the current president, Álvaro Uribe, who led a bloody offensive against leftist guerrillas.

Standing on 90th Street, near Roosevelt Avenue, Mr. Cano glared at Ms. Pacheco and her college-age compatriots, who wore green shirts with campaign slogans praising Mr. Mockus, and said, “Mockus is very smart, but he doesn’t have a strong arm to govern a country at war.”

As Colombia prepares for national elections on Sunday, the close contest between Mr. Mockus and Mr. Santos has exposed a generational divide among voters thousands of miles away in Queens, which is home to most of the 120,000 or so Colombians living in the city. (There are about five million living outside Colombia.)

On Mr. Mockus’s side are people like Ms. Pacheco, a graduate student in educational psychology at Hunter College who left Colombia in 2001. Her most vivid recollections of the country, she said, are of the positive changes Mr. Mockus inspired in Bogotá, like getting people to use crosswalks by hiring mimes to mock jaywalkers at some of the city’s busiest intersections.
 
Read more here.
 
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