World Citizen: Colombia Nears the End of the Uribe Era

World Citizen: Colombia Nears the End of the Uribe Era

Voters in Colombia are reluctantly preparing for life without the man they view as the nation's savior. On May 30, they will go to the polls to elect a successor to President Alvaro Uribe, the leader they chose eight years ago in a bold break with tradition. It was a decision that paid off spectacularly for a country that stood perched on the brink of catastrophe. But Uribe's success in tackling the nation's problems and his resulting sky-high approval ratings created a dangerous challenge for the country's democracy. Colombians pondered the prospect of granting their president an unprecedented third term. After considering the winding road to authoritarian rule, however, Colombia veered back onto the democratic path when the Constitutional Court refused to allow it.

Now that Uribe has to leave, voters must decide who will take the reins once their hero relinquishes them. The contenders for the top job all vow they will follow in their predecessor's footsteps. Still, the main candidates offer different personalities and different philosophies. Whoever becomes Colombia's next president will face formidable challenges in preventing the country from backsliding into calamity.

The leading candidate is the one most closely associated with the outgoing president. Juan Manuel Santos served as defense minister under Uribe, a pivotal role in an administration whose battlefield successes proved the key to popular support. Second in the polls is the Green party candidate and former Bogotá mayor, Antanás Mockus, who brought innovative solutions to the capital's problems. Mockus also vows to fight for security, but he would do it with more restraint than Santos. Trailing in third place is Noemí Sanín, the standard-bearer of the Conservative party. She has spent many years in the public eye and has earned a committed following after decades of public service and two presidential campaigns. She now commands what is arguably the largest political organization in the country, but one that proved unable to defeat Uribe.

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