The Miami Herald

Alvaro Uribe is closer to a third term -- and to self-destruction

Sept 08--Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who enjoys sky-high popularity rates at home thanks to his successful crackdown on narco-terrorist groups, is a step closer to changing the constitution and running for a third consecutive term. The big question is whether this will turn Colombia into a banana republic.

8 de septiembre de 2009

Last week, the Colombian Congress passed a law to convene a referendum asking Colombians whether they approve of allowing Uribe to run for a third consecutive term. The Congress had already changed the constitution four years ago, to allow Uribe to run for reelection, but only for one term.

Uribe supporters say Colombia desperately needs a third term by Uribe, so that he can finish the job of dismantling the guerrilla armies that have held Colombia at bay for the past five decades.

Since Uribe took office in 2002, the number of FARC guerrillas has dropped from 23,000 to about 8,500, and kidnappings for ransom have declined from 2,882 to 437 people a year. For the first time in recent history, Colombians can safely travel through most of the country, they say.

The economy is growing, poverty has dropped by 11 percent over the past six years, and foreign investment reached an all-time high of $10.5 billion last year. Not surprisingly, Uribe's popularity is near 70 percent.

In addition, the process to change the constitution was totally legal, Uribe supporters say.

``I think the president should continue in power because his work has been successful, and all the figures prove it,'' Colombian presidential spokesman César Mauricio Velásquez told me in a telephone interview. ``Poverty is down, education and health have improved, and he has to continue the recovery of our security situation. He must finish the job he has initiated.''
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