The Los Angeles Times

Colombia Congress OKs referendum on Uribe seeking reelection

Sept 03--The U.S. is not enthusiastic about the prospect of President Alvaro Uribe running for a third term. Critics decry what they see as the destruction of Colombia's legal checks and balances.

3 de septiembre de 2009

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has cleared the last legislative hurdle to running for a third term, a prospect that his U.S. allies look upon with ambivalence.

By a vote of 85 to 5, the lower house of Congress late Tuesday greenlighted a voter referendum early next year that could pave the way for Uribe to be on the May presidential ballot. The Senate approved the measure last month.

If he does run, it would be the second time Uribe has circumvented a constitutional ban on reelection, a measure many Latin American countries put into law to prevent the ascension of caudillos, or political leaders who have kept themselves in power.

First elected in 2002, Uribe was reelected in a landslide in 2006 after Congress authorized a similar referendum to change the 1991 constitution, which limited presidents to one term.

In recent interviews, U.S. officials have acknowledged that they were not enthusiastic about an ally following a path taken by leftist leaders across South America, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, who have secured reelection, or are trying to, despite constitutional restrictions.

U.S. officials believe such efforts to cling to power weaken political institutions.
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