ShareThis Page
Uribe torchbearer, maverick reformer in tight race in Colombia |

Uribe torchbearer, maverick reformer in tight race in Colombia

The Associated Press
| Monday, May 31, 2010 12:00 a.m

BOGOTA, Colombia — An ex-defense minister promising to build on President Alvaro Uribe’s security gains and a maverick outsider pledging clean government were favored Sunday as Colombians voted for a new leader.

Although generally peaceful, Sunday was marked by 17 firefights with leftist rebels that claimed the lives of at least three soldiers, a potent reminder that Colombia’s half-century-old conflict is far from resolved.

Juan Manuel Santos, a Cabinet minister in three administrations and grandnephew of a president, was in a statistical dead heat in pre-election polls with Antanas Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former two-time Bogota mayor running on the Green Party slate.

The two led a field of nine. If no candidate wins a simple majority, the top two vote-getters will meet in a June 20 runoff.

Combat was reported in at least seven regions, most of them rural coca-growing centers in the south and west but also in Guajira state in the northeast, where one of the soldiers was killed. All three combat deaths were blamed by the government on the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces, or FARC.

The guerrillas had called on Colombians to boycott Sunday’s vote but did not order people to stay off the roads, as they have done during elections in some more isolated provinces.

Santos, 58, a first cousin of the outgoing vice president, bills himself as a continuation of Uribe’s hugely popular U.S.-backed military buildup that has sharply curtailed kidnappings and murders, though the homicide rate rose last year to 39.3 per 100,000 from 34.3 in 2008.

Mockus, also 58, is a mathematician, philosopher and former National University rector who says he’ll be tough on the FARC. Though careful not to criticize Uribe, he has expressed dismay at the battery of scandals that have plagued the outgoing president, such as domestic spying, extrajudicial killings by soldiers and the awarding of agricultural subsidies to political cronies. Mockus also advocates raising taxes, which Santos opposes.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.