Friday, February 26, 2010

Colombia's peaceful transition demonstrates commitment to democracy

Anybody still harboring doubts about the strength of South America's commitment to democracy -- perfectly understandable, in light of recent political events -- should take heart from Colombia's presidential transition. We're speaking, of course, of Friday's decision by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to withdraw from the next presidential election after the country's highest court ruled out last-minute efforts to make him eligible for a third term. The two-term incumbent's unexpected departure from the race makes former Finance Minister Juan Manuel Santos the front runner in the election in May, according to the Reuters international news service. Uribe bowed out of the race graciously after the ruling in a region known for tumultuous politics. "I accept and I respect the decision of the Constitutional Court," Uribe said after the ruling. "One dream inspires me: that the country betters its path, but does not change it." Uribe still enjoys wide popularity in Colombia, where he championed a crackdown on Marxist rebels and cocaine traffickers, and helped the country evolved from a failed narco state into one with a robust economy. Success against the rebels led to increased foreign investment and economic growth, Reuters said, and Colombia became the strongest supporter of the United States in a region that has seen anti-U.S. leaders come to power in nearby Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Colombia is now Latin America's largest coffee exporter and No. 4 oil exporter, Reuters said. Santos is expected to continue Uribe's policies, but faces a tough campaign against Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo and former defense minister Noemi Sanin.

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