The Washington Post | 5/7/2010 12:00:00 AM
Politically astute outsider Mockus making ground in campaign for president of Colombia
May 7--Colombians have long known Antanas Mockus for his antics, such as the time he mooned an auditorium full of rowdy students during his stint as a university president. And how he got married atop an elephant.
Some have called him "a little strange," as Mockus acknowledged Thursday in an interview. Soon, Colombians may be calling him president.
Polls increasingly show that Mockus, who is the son of Lithuanian immigrants and whose trademark is an Amish-style beard, might just win the presidency in elections to succeed Alvaro Uribe, a U.S.-backed hard-liner who was prevented from running for a third term. A first round of voting takes place May 30, with a second scheduled next month if no candidate wins 50 percent.
Political analysts and commentators call Mockus's rise a political phenomenon because he differs so markedly in style and substance from Uribe, who marshaled more than $6 billion in U.S. aid to batter the rebel forces that have plagued Colombia. That gave Uribe a 70 percent approval rating, and pundits predicted that his natural heir, former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, would easily sweep to victory.
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