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Thursday, June 8, 2006
Uribe’s Second Term
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:44 pm

Andres Oppenheimer, writing in the Miami Herald is concerned about Uribe and his second term: Biggest threat to Colombia’s Uribe: his own success

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest threat to U.S.-backed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe following his landslide reelection Sunday will not be his country’s Marxist guerrillas but the temptation to seek a third term in office.

History tells us that this is not a frivolous conjecture. Uribe, who was reelected by a 40-point margin over his closest rival, will control nearly 80 percent of Congress and much of the Supreme Court. He will have a hard time resisting claims by his most fervent followers that he is ‘’el hombre indispensable'’ (the indispensable man) to get Colombia out of its historic quagmire.

Well, while I do understand the concern, I don’t think it is one that requires much angst in this case. For one thing, to try and extrapolate what Uribe may or may not be tempted to do by looking at the whole of Latin American history is poor reasoning. Colombia has never fit any of the major patterns or trends of Latin America. Further, it is questionable as to whether one can even speak with sufficient cogency about there being such prevailing trends in the region.

Second, it is a radical over-simplification to state that Uribe will have such a large amount of control in the Colombian congress. We are not talking about a single party to which Uribe and the legislators in question belong to. Uribe is an independent and the congressional seats in question come from a coalition of numerous parties which supported Uribe’s bid for re-election, but which hardly are monolithically allied with the president. Indeed, many in those parties are hoping that they, or one of their co-partisans, will be vying for the presidency in 2010.

Further, the Supreme Court has been more than willing to spurn Uribe’s requests during his first term, and I see no reason to assume that that behavior will be altered during his second.

Oppenheimer’s examples of executives who didn’t know when to quite are: Carlos Menem of Argentina, Alberto Fujimori of Peru and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Uribe has not exhibited any behaviors to date that would suggest that any of these are cases that he is likely to emulate.

Still, I do understand the general concern:

Power clouds even the most intelligent minds. And while Uribe is one of the most down-to-earth presidents I have known — he dresses humbly, doesn’t walk as if he had swallowed a broomstick and avoids talking about himself in the third person, as if he were larger than life — he will have a hard time keeping a cool head after the latest election.

However, it seems to me that the following assessment is likely correct:

Others say that Uribe’s low-key personality, Colombia’s historically strong institutions and the emergence of a new democratic left, which will have a vocal minority in Congress, will help the country fend off authoritarian temptations.

‘’As opposed to Chávez and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, Uribe has a good chance of avoiding a personality cult and of institutionalizing his policies,'’ says Eduardo Gamarra, head of Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center. “There are already Uribe followers in the Senate and other places who are leadership options for the future.'’

More to the point, the constitution of Colombia currently limts the president to two terms total:

ARTICULO 197. Nadie podrá ser elegido para ocupar la Presidencia de la República por más de dos períodos.

I find it highly unlikely that the Congress would be willing to amend the constitution again so as to allow three.

As such, I think that Oppenheimer is off the mark with too much concern over the notion that Uribe will be seeking a third term.

h/t: The Latin Americanist

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Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution linked with [...] hink he’s got an airtight rebuttal. I agree with him strongly. Read this whole thing here. Meanwhile, Mary Anastasia O’Grady had a good piece in the Wall Street Journal from last week, whi [...]
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Headline Reaction
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:28 am

Gee, ya think?

Via Forbes: Colombia Race Affirms Uribe’s Popularity

Filed under: Colombia, 2006 Presidential Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Pros and Cons » Northern Latin America, in the news. linked with [...] the news. Posted by: Honza Prchal @ 3:15 pm Filed under: Venezuela, Columbia Poliblogger reacts to the reaction to Alvaro Uribe’s latest electoral romp, 62% of the vote in a multi- [...]
Monday, May 29, 2006
“The atmosphere…was cold.”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:25 am

Via El Tiempo El presidente Álvaro Uribe y el Polo Democrático Alternativo hirieron de muerte al bipartidismo comes this description of the Serpa campaign HQ after the vote:

El ambiente en el cuartel liberal en el Hotel Cosmos 100 de Bogotá era frío./ The atmosphere of the of Liberal headquarters at the Cosmos 100 Hotel in Bogotá was cold.

I bet it was. This was the worst defeat the PL has ever experienced at the ballot box. Indeed, it is an outcome that would have been considered unthinkable even four years ago. Indeed, as I have noted before, a decade or so ago there were those who thought that the PL would be permanently in the majority.

Of course, all defeats are not equal. At the HQ of the Carlos Gaviria, the second place winner:

las caras eran de felicidad pues a pesar de la derrota/the faces were happy in spite of the defeat

Gaviria’s finish was the best for a left-leaning presidential candidate in the history of Colombia. Only the AD/M-19 list for the National Constituent Assembly in 1990 was a better finish (percentage-wise) for the political left in a national election.

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Who Picks These Pics?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:14 am

Here is the current photo on the front page of El Tiempo online (Colombia’s major newspaper):

It looks like Uribe is trying a Jedi mind trick on the audience. And you have to love the the guy mopping his brow in the background (Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón, I think). He appears to be about to pass out.

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Definitely a Landslide
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:59 am

Uribe won thirty of thirty-two of Colombia’s departments (like states, kind): stats here.

Carlos Gaviria won two departments: La Guajira and Nariño.

Serpa won no departments, including his home of Santander-which he lost to Uribe by a factor of 1.7.

Gaviria beat Serpa in all but three departments: Córdoba, San Andrés, and Santander. Gaviria and Serpa tied for second in the tiny department of Vaupés with 720 votes each.

Uribe also won in all the major departmental capitals: Así votaron las capitales del país en la elección presidencial del domingo. That includes
a 49%-29% win over Serpa in Serpa’s home town of Bucaramanga.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006
Uribe Reelected
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:11 pm

Via CNN: Incumbent wins Colombia presidency

With 85 percent of ballots counted, the conservative Uribe scored a stronger than expected 62 percent of the vote, easily surpassing the 50 percent needed to win in the first round and exceeding pre-election expectations.

In second place, with 22 percent of the votes, was Sen. Carlos Gaviria of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole party. Gaviria’s strong support confirms the rise of the democratic left in this violence-wracked South American nation. In third place was Horacio Serpa, of the century-old Liberal Party, with just below 12 percent.

That didn’t take long.

The initial reports state that the vote was peaceful and turnout was good-although that is always hard to tell by just looking.

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Colombian Presidential Elections FAQ
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:25 pm

Via WaPo here’s a good FAQ on the elections.

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The Rise of the Colombian Left (but How Far?)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:11 pm

As noted in the previous post, Justin Delacour points to a piece by Gary Leech at the Colombia Post Online entitled The Rise of the Colombian Left. The piece notes:

While it is true that Uribe will likely be re-elected on May 28—although it no longer appears guaranteed that he will win outright in the first round of voting—his nearest competitor is no longer a candidate from one of Colombia’s traditional political parties. Instead, the center-left Democratic Pole’s candidate Carlos Gaviria is running second in three recent polls. This unprecedented support for a leftist Colombian presidential candidate follows on the heels of the Democratic Pole’s successes in March’s congressional elections. The recent rise of the electoral Left in Colombia has primarily come at the expense of the centrist Liberal party as the country has become increasingly polarized between Right and Left.

Even given Gaviria’s recent movement in the polls, I think it highly, highly unlikely that there will be a second round. Indeed, I think that the piece is reading too much into the recent movement, which is probably at least in part a reflection of the fact that polls in Colombia tend to over-sample urban areas where candidates like Gaviria are likely to do well (in a relative sense). It will not shock me in the least if Serpa still ends up in second place. Although I do think that it is probably in Colombia’s best interest, democratically speaking, for Gaviria to come in second-not because he represents the democratic left (or for any other ideological reason) but because he represents the ability of new parties to form and to be successful in a system that needs new blood in its party system.

Still, there is no doubt that the Democratic Pole’s success in the March elections and the fact that their presidential candidates may come in a distant second in the first round are both very positive signs for the party, I would caution Mr. Leech over reading too much into any of it at this stage-there simply isn’t enough data.

Further, those who know Colombia have been down this road before: similar prognostications were made about the AD/M-19 (a political party that emerged from the M-19 guerrilla groups demobilization in that lat 1980s). The AD/M-19 was initially quite successful and looked poised to be a third force in Colombian politics behind the Liberal and Conservative Parties. However, the party largely self-destructed in the 1990s and the structural conditions of the electoral system also continued to favor large parties, especially the PL.

Still, the main trouble for the party was internal-indeed, the electoral rules under the 1991 Constitution, at least for the Senate, provided ample opportunity for the AD/M-19 to build a niche in Colombian politics. However, strategic errors in the 1994 elections, which were a reflection of the the lack of cohesion amongst its membership, made that impossible.

The previous attempt at a leftward political party was the Unión Patriótica, or Patriot Union, which was conceived of as a non-violent, electoral arm of the FARC. The UP had some minor electoral success in the 1980s, although their prospects of becoming a major electoral force was always slim. More significantly, however, is the fact that in the mid-1980s, even after the UP severed ties with FARC, paramilitary groups (and likely the military itself in cases) assassinated hundreds of members of the UP so that by the late 1980s, the party had almost ceased to exist and by 2002 had wholly faded from the scene.

(As a side note, I would point out the UP was more radically left than either the AD/M-19 or the PDA.)

The slaughter of the UP is one of the more tragic chapters in the long and bloody history of Colombian politics. There is little doubt that the attacks on the UP created a very difficult political climate for those wishing to run from the left in Colombia and also has made, to this day, negotiations with the FARC extremely difficult.

Along these lines, Leech’s piece makes an irresponsible linkage between the current era and events of twenty years ago:

Of course, whether or not the Left achieves such an unprecedented success in 2010 may well depend on whether or not the Uribe administration’s dirty war excesses contribute to a repeat of the slaughter of the leftist Patriotic Union in the late-1980s. Hopefully, the Democratic Pole will be spared the fate that befell its leftist predecessor and Colombia can show that it has finally moved beyond such barbaric electoral practices.

While there continue to be serious questions about linkages between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups, there is no evidence to suggest anything akin to the targeting of the UP has taken place during the Uribe administration. Certainly there is nothing to suggest that the Alternative Democratic Pole is the target of systematic violence. Further, I do not think that the appellation “Dirty War” (given its connotations when connected to the actions of the Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean authoritarian governments of the 70s and 80s) is appropriate in this case. There are clear and troubling violations of human rights in the ongoing political conflict in Colombia (on all sides), but I would argue that it isn’t fair (or accurate) to tag it with that label.

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More Colombian Election Blogging
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

Some other blogging on the Colombian presidential elections:

  • Publius Pundit has a lengthy post on the subject.

  • Publius Pundit also points to this post at Plan Colombian and Beyond that details the candidates views on the US and the drug war.
  • Matthew Shugart notes the historical significance of the elections.
  • Justin Delacour points to a piece on the rise of the Colombian left.
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Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Álvaro Uribe
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:21 pm

Today Colombians go to the polls to determine who will be their president for the 2006-2010 term (they had congressional elections in March). Here, then, in my final profile of the major candidates.

Previous posts:

    Álvaro Uribe

Uribe is the sitting President (an independent who used to be a member of PL). He has been arguably the most popular president in Colombian history-so much so that the constitution was amended to allow him to run for a second term. The 1991 constitution had limited presidents to one four-year term, and the previous constitution (that of 1886) had allowed only non-concurrent terms (hence, Uribe will not be the first president in Colombian history to serve two terms, but he will be the first to have back-to-back terms).

It is widely assumed that he will win outright today. The Colombian constitution requires 50% +1 to be elected president, failing that in the first round, the top two vote-getters would meet in four weeks. However, the likelihood is that, like in 2002, Uribe will only need one round to win.

Uribe was educated at the University of Antioquia (where his now-rival, Carlos Gavria, was one of his professors) and at Harvard. He also taught for a time at Oxford.

Politically he started out as a member of the Liberal Party, but ran as an independent in 2002.

Here are some highlights of his political career:

PL Senator 1986-1990, 1990-1991, 1991-1994
Alcalde de Medellín en 1982
concejal (Medellin) 84-86.
Gobernador de Antioquia 1995-1997.

Uribe has been an extremely strong ally of the US and of the Bush administration. Indeed, while Colombia has normally had excellent relations with the US, Uribe is perhaps the friendliest to the US of any Colombian president ever.

Some trivia: there have been numerous attempts on Uribe’s life, including one in 2002 when he was a candidate that involved a bomb hidden in a Bible.

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Friday, May 26, 2006
Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Carlos Gaviria
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:22 pm

This Sunday is the first (and probably final) round of the Colombian Presidential Elections.

Here is the latest in a series of profiles on the candidates (at least the major ones)-previous entries here and here.

Carlos Gaviria (PDA): Official Web Site.

Gaviria is the candidate of the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo-PDA). He won the right the represent the Polo in the party’s first presidential primary in March-besting Antonio Navarro-the former M-19 guerrilla leader and former co-President of the National Constituent Assembly that wrote the constitution of 1991 (among other things). Gaviria won 52.5% of the vote to Navarro’s 45.7% in something of an upset. The PDA is only the second party in Colombian history to use the open primary as a mechanism for nominating it candidates (the Liberals used it in 1990, 1994 and 2006).

Gaviria has been a political science/public law professor (!), was a Magistrate (1993-2001) of the Constitutional Court (including President of the body in 1996), and a Senator (2002-2006). He also served as a municipal judge in 1961.

He was a professor for roughly thirty years at the University of Antioquia before entering politics. Votebien provides the following in regards to his academic/administrative positions:

Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
Vicerrector General de la Universidad 1989-1992

Director del Instituto de Ciencia Política
1988

Director del departamento de Derecho Público 1974-1980

Decano de la Facultad de Derecho
1967-1969

Trivia: Is often referred to as Santa Claus (Santaclós) or Papá Noel-for fairly obvious reasons. In fact, he has played jolly ol’ Saint Nick at least once: PAPÁ NOEL POR UN DÍA.

Better than Santa Clause, Gaviria was a professor of Uribe’s back in the 1970s: (via USAT

Carlos Gaviria, 69 — a judge who also is running for president and was Uribe’s law professor — joked to reporters this week that Uribe “was a good student, but he forgot to come to the class on constitutional law.”

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Álvaro Uribe linked with [...] then, in my final profile of the major candidates. Previous posts: Horacio Serpa (PL) Carlos Gaviria (PDA) The ballot. Álvaro Uribe Uribe is the sitting President (an independent who used [...]
Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates (Ballot Edition)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

The second in a series leading up to this Sunday’s presidential elections in Colombia

Here’s the ballot (click for a larger image):

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Carlos Gaviria linked with [...] es of profiles on the candidates (at least the major ones)-previous entries here and here. Carlos Gaviria (PDA): Official Web Site. Gaviria is the candidate of the Alternative Democratic Pol [...]
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Horacio Serpa
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:09 pm

This Sunday is the first (and probably final) round of the Colombian Presidential Elections.

Here is the first in a series of profiles on the candidates (at least the major ones).

Horacio Serpa (Partido Liberal): Official Web Site.

Serpa is a classic Colombian politician, insofar as his political career was built as a party insider and out of local clientele networks. He is a career politico.

He was a cabinet-level minister in the Samper (1994-1998) administration (Government and Interior) and has been the PL’s nominee for President of late (1998, 2002 and now 2006). He is therefore poised to be a three-time loser, matching Álvaro Gómez who ran as the Conservative nominee in 1974 and 1986 and as the candidate of the National Salvation Movement in 1990.

Serpa is also on the brink of doing what no PL candidate has ever done: come in third in a presidential election.

The zenith of his career was when he was part of the tripartite leadership of the National Constituent Assembly that wrote the 1991 Constitution along with the aforementioned Álvaro Gómez and Antonio Navarro of the AD/M-19, who recently lost the nomination of the PDA to Carlos Gaviria. The nadir of his career may be coming this weekend. (In parlance of PoliBlog, Serpa is toast).

Serpa was no favorite of the US during the Samper administration, which was viewed by the Clinton administration as having inordinate ties to drug cartels. See: Russell Crandall. 2002. Driven by Drugs: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Press. for an excellent discussion of that (and other issues in recent US-Colombian relations).

Here’s a chronology of his career 1970-present:

1970: Alcalde de Barrancabermeja.
1970-76: Juez Promiscuo Municipal de Tona; Juez Penal Municipal de San Vicente de Chucurí; Juez Civil Municipal de Barrancabermeja; Investigador Criminal de Santander; Juez Superior de Barrancabermeja.
1971-74: Director de la Federación Nacional de Comerciantes FENALCO - Bucaramanga; Director Caja de Compensación Familiar - Barrancabermeja.
1974-76: Representante a la Cámara por Santander.
1976: Secretario de Educación de Santander.
1978-82: Representante a la Cámara por Santander.
1979: Presidente Directorio Liberal de Santander.
1982-86: Representante a la Cámara por Santander.
1983: Presidente de la Comisión Política Central del Partido Liberal.
1986-90: Senador de la República.
1988-89: Procurador General de la Nación.
1990: Ministro de Gobierno.
1990-91: Senador de la República.
1991: Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente.
1991-92: Consejero Presidencial para la Paz.
1994: Ministro de Gobierno.
1995-97: Ministro del Interior.
1998: Candidato a la Presidencia de la República.
1998-99: Director Nacional del Partido Liberal.
2002: Candidato a la Presidencia de la República.
2006: Candidato a la Presidencia de la República.

Of the candidate running, Serpa is the only one (to my recollection) that I have seen in person (and may have been introduced to, but am unsure). I was invited to a talk that he gave at the University of the Andes—I think it was during my first trip to Colombia in 1992 rather than the year I spent there doing my dissertation research in 94-95.

I must confess that I don’t remember a word he said. I do remember struggling to stay awake, however. I attribute my sleepiness less to the fact that Serpa may have been boring, but to the fact that I found operating in a foreign language, especially when I first arrived, to be extremely fatiguing—not to mention all the walking around Bogotá—at high altitudes to boot!

Trivia: in Colombian political cartoons Serpa’s mustache is oft-ridiculed. Serpa himself has been referred to as “El Bigote.”

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Álvaro Uribe linked with [...] s in March). Here, then, in my final profile of the major candidates. Previous posts: Horacio Serpa (PL) Carlos Gaviria (PDA) The ballot. Álvaro Uribe Uribe is the sitting President (and [...]
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates: Carlos Gaviria linked with [...] in a series of profiles on the candidates (at least the major ones)-previous entries here and here. Carlos Gaviria (PDA): Official Web Site. Gaviria is the candidate of the Alternative Democ [...]
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Know Your Colombian Presidential Candidates (Ballot Edition) linked with [...] ential Candidates (Ballot Edition) By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am The second in a series leading up to this Sunday’s presidential elections in Colombia Here’s the ballot (cl [...]
Putting Surges in Perspective
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:02 am

I noted the following headline in regards to this weekend’s presidential elections in Colombia (via the AP): Leftist candidate surges in Colombia, which sounded rather interesting, given the general lack of drama in the race (as the incumbent looks poised to win re-election in the first round).

At any rate, the headline is accurate, Gaviria (the aforementioned mentioned “leftist”) is surging-into a distant second:

Colombia’s democratic left, long blemished by its association with the four-decade-old guerrilla insurgency, has been invigorated by the surprise performance of Sen. Carlos Gaviria, the candidate for the Alternative Democratic Pole party, or PDA.

Unknown to half of Colombians just a few months ago, the academic and former head of Colombia’s highest court has leapfrogged past Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa to move into second place. Since March, polls show that support for Gaviria has tripled to 24 percent.

That is impressive, and says a lot about the current state of the once-dominant Liberal Party (not to mention the sorry state of their current candidate, and soon to be three-time loser, Horacio Serpa). However, I am not sure that “surging” into second place for the right to lose by double-digits is quite as impressive as the headline suggests. However, it will have potential long-term significance for part formation for the PDA-and Colombia needs the development of healthy new parties.

Also, it is inaccurate to associate Gavira and the PDA (or even the democratic left in general) with the guerrillas currently fighting. Further, there have been moments of electoral success of such parties in the last 15 years. However, those successes (like AD/M-19’s in the 1990 Constituent Assembly elections) have been fleeting insofar as the ability of those groups to build long-term growth has been nil. Still, if Gaviria comes in second, it will be an historical moment in Colombian electoral history-both in terms of the number of votes won by a leftist presidential candidate, but also by the fact that it will mark the first time that the top-two vote-getters were both from parties other than the Liberals and Conservatives. A third place slot for Serpa and the PL will be especially phenomenal.

It would appear that there is some substantial evolution taking place in the Colombian party system-but there won’t be any hard evidence of exactly what type of evolution until we have back-to-back legislative elections under the current rules that just went into place.

Still, it does appear that the constitutional reform that was put into place in 1991, which did effect the electoral system, set in motion the changes we are currently seeing.

Fascinating stuff, to be sure (well, to me, at least!).

Filed under: Colombia, 2006 Presidential Elections | Comments (7) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Uribe Leads with 60%
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:47 pm

Via Anugus Reid Consultants: President Uribe Tops 60% Mark in Colombia:

Álvaro Uribe is heavily favoured to win this Sunday’s presidential election in Colombia, according to a poll by Invamer Gallup. 61.2 per cent of respondents would vote for the incumbent.

Former Constitutional Court president Carlos Gaviria of the Democratic Independent Pole (PDI) is second with 20.4 per cent, followed by Organization of American States (OAS) ambassador Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party (PL) with 13.7 per cent. Antanas Mockus of the Visionary Party (PV), Carlos Rincón of the Colombian Community and Communal Political Movement (MPCCC), and Enrique Parejo of Democratic Revival (RD) are also contending.

It is no surprise that Uribe is in the lead, as I expect him to win in the first round. It is interesting that the PL candidate is in third place.

Filed under: Colombia, 2006 Presidential Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
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