Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fundamental Change in Colombia Unlikely with President-elect Santos

This analysis of the June 20th Colombian presidential election results was my most recent article published by the Women's iInternational Perspective.

Juan Manuel Santos as Defense Minister. Photograph courtesy of the Center for American Progress and downloaded under a Creative Commons license.
Fulfilling expectations after a solid showing in May’s first round, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos handily won Colombia's June 20th presidential run-off election. Though Santos and his contender, Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of the capital city Bogota, had been neck-in-neck in opinion polls leading up to the first round of elections, the May 30th results gave Santos a substantial lead that he never lost. On June 20th Santos won 69% of the vote.

Mockus’ defeat may be seen as a combination of several factors. For one, opinion polls are unreliable in Colombia. Pollsters tend to reach only middle and upper class urban residents. Poor and rural Colombians, who tend to not have access to landlines or other standard survey methods, are rarely surveyed.

Presumably, much of Santos’ hidden support came from the countryside. As former Defense Minister for outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Santos represents Uribe’s hard line on security in Colombia’s decades-old internal armed conflict. Those security policies are often credited with a reduction in violence in recent years (though strong evidence indicates violence may again be on the upswing.) Santos’ direction of high-profile events like the 2008 rescue of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors created an image of competence against the principal guerrilla group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC.)

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