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| 1/4/2010 12:00:00 AM

Time to enter history

Jan 4--Álvaro Uribe should stand aside and let would-be successors campaign to lead Colombia.

With a presidential election due on May 30th, Colombians should be plunging into a debate about their troubled country’s priorities for the next four years. Instead, politics is held hostage by a battle begun by Álvaro Uribe, the president since 2002, to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third consecutive term. Later this month or early next the Constitutional Court will rule on the validity of a law that would clear Mr Uribe’s path. The court might reject it, over procedure, or rule that Mr Uribe could stand only in 2014. If it upholds the measure, this must then be approved in a referendum in which at least a quarter of voters turn out, probably to be held in mid-March. If, despite his great popularity, Mr Uribe were unable to secure a high enough turnout, his would-be successors would have only a few weeks to secure a popular mandate.

That is an indulgence Colombia cannot afford. Mr Uribe has made his country a better and safer place. Through tireless and determined leadership and by expanding the security forces, backed by American aid, he has reduced the FARC guerrillas from a mortal threat to the democratic state to a scattered, if still dangerous, band. He persuaded tens of thousands of right-wing paramilitaries to disband, albeit under a flawed agreement. Greater security has helped to bring a revival of economic growth and national self-confidence. That is why polls suggest that if Mr Uribe ran, he would win.
 
Mr Uribe has indeed accomplished much. But for Colombia to progress it needs strong institutions rather than an eternal strongman. The ultimate success of Mr Uribe’s tough security policies depends on them being continued by others—and on being adjusted. FARC’s kidnap and murder of a provincial governor in late December was a grisly throwback to the bad old days of a decade ago. There are also new threats from criminal gangs made up of recycled paramilitary types.
 
Read more here.
 
Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.
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EDICIÓN 1855

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