the washington post

Colombian Vote Bolsters Uribe's Chances to Seek Third Term

President Álvaro Uribe, whose government has forged a close alliance with the United States to fight Marxist guerrillas and drug traffickers, stepped closer to extending his presidency when Colombia's Senate voted late Wednesday in favor of an effort to allow him to run for reelection.--The Washington Post

Just a month ago, Colombia's influential newsmagazine, Semana, declared Uribe's chances of going for a third term "dead." Even some of the president's supporters had said there was not enough time before the May election for the country's highest court to approve a constitutional amendment permitting him to run for reelection and for authorities to convene a referendum that would ask Colombians whether they approved of a third term.

But Thursday, Uribe's supporters in Congress were buoyant after the Senate voted 56 to 2 to stage a referendum. The president's opponents, who say the reelection effort violates the constitution, boycotted the vote, though its leaders acknowledged not having the votes to stop the bill.

Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio, who is spearheading the reelection drive, told the senators that their approval reflected popular support for Uribe's U.S.-backed security policy. "Thank you in the name of all those Colombians who believe in the democratic security policies that have brought back hope to the country," he said.

Uribe, elected in a landslide in 2002, was reelected after a constitutional amendment permitted his reelection in 2006. During his tenure, Colombia has driven rebel groups into isolated, rural regions. Uribe's government has received more than $5 billion in U.S. aid to reorganize a once hapless military and establish an ambitious drug-fumigation program.
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