Sunday, June 15, 2014

Colombia: President Santos Re-Elected in One of the Closest Races in Contemporary History

According to The Latin American Tribune, President Juan Manuel Santos won re-election on Sunday (June 15) in Colombia’s tightest presidential contest in years, an endorsement of luke-warm 18-month-old peace talks to end the Western Hemisphere's longest-running conflict.

Santos defeated right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga with 53% of the vote compared to Zuluaga's capturing 47% of  99.7% of votes, which is hardly an endorsement of Santos' peace efforts.

The 62-year-old Santos, who was running as the candidate of the National Unity coalition, made reaching a peace agreement to end the conflict with Colombia’s guerrilla groups the focus of his campaign.

COMMENT: I hate to be a naysayer, but my deepest fear is that the Colombian victims who have died, been injured and maimed for life during the 50-year-old conflict will be the losers in President Santos' apparent obsession to have peace at any cost.

The 55-year-old Zuluaga, who was backed by former President Alvaro Uribe, has been a harsh critic of the Santos Administration’s peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN). 

Zuluaga, of the Democratic Center party, garnered 29.25% of the ballots in the first round of voting on May 25, while Santos came in second with 25.69%.

The polls ahead of Sunday’s runoff had been mixed, with some showing Santos winning and others indicating that Zuluaga was to be elected as Colombia’s next president.

The FARC declared a cease-fire from June 9 to June 30 and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group said it would respect the election process but would not declare a cease-fire.