News / Americas

Colombia's Uribe Tries to Oust Santos with New Presidential Pick

Colombian presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga greets supporters during a closing campaign rally in Villeta, May 17, 2014.
Colombian presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga greets supporters during a closing campaign rally in Villeta, May 17, 2014.
Reuters
Since stepping down as Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe has spent much of the last four years fuming as his hand-picked successor turned against him and began peace talks with Marxist guerrillas.
 
Now Uribe is throwing his support behind right-wing economist Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and a late surge in opinion polls has raised his hopes of ousting President Juan Manuel Santos from power.
 
Zuluaga is the candidate of a new opposition movement that Uribe founded last year and he is staunchly against talks with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
 
Like his hardline mentor, Zuluaga accuses Santos of selling out Colombians by promising congressional seats instead of prison cells to rebel leaders if they end the 50-year-old conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people.
 
Opinion polls ahead of the first round of voting on Sunday show Zuluaga catching or even overtaking Santos, although a widening scandal over the alleged hacking of rebel negotiators' emails by Zuluaga's campaign could hurt him.
 
Neither man is expected to win the 50 percent support needed for a first-round victory, meaning they would go into a run-off on June 15.
 
A victory for Zuluaga could mean the end of peace talks and an escalation of U.S.-backed bombing campaigns that were central to Uribe's counter-insurgency strategy when he was president.
 
“One of the most important tasks for the next president is to guarantee the security we had between 2002 and 2010 and so ensure true peace for Colombia,” the 55-year old Zuluaga says in campaign ads.
 
Unseating Santos would also be a huge personal victory for Uribe, who has not forgiven him for his perceived “betrayal”.
 
Colombia's President and presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos greets supporters during the closing campaign rally in Bogota, May 18, 2014.Colombia's President and presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos greets supporters during the closing campaign rally in Bogota, May 18, 2014.
x
Colombia's President and presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos greets supporters during the closing campaign rally in Bogota, May 18, 2014.
Colombia's President and presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos greets supporters during the closing campaign rally in Bogota, May 18, 2014.

In angry Twitter posts, he regularly accuses Santos of using him to get into office in 2010 by promising to continue Uribe's hardline policies only to secretly prepare peace talks.
 
“It's painful. We are parents and grandparents, it hurts that Santos's government prefers electoral deals with murderers,” Uribe said recently about talks with the FARC.
 
“President Santos, is this what why you were elected four years ago?” he said in another.
 
Elected to the Senate in March, Uribe's populist appeal has helped revitalize Zuluaga's lackluster campaign.
 
Once widely seen as staid and boring, the former finance minister with bushy eyebrows now appears to have overcome his reputation as an insipid technocrat.
 
TV spots show him pumping his fist as he punches out policy ideas at packed rallies, receiving admiring stares from giddy teenagers, and taking swipes at Santos.
 
Swapping pin-striped suits for blue jeans and cowboy hat, Zuluaga has traveled the nation - often with Uribe - to meet coffee farmers in Pereira, coca growers in Putumayo and ranchers in Cordoba.
 
But many Colombians wonder if he would move out from Uribe's shadow or instead allow him to govern behind the scenes.
 
“Everyone knows Uribe wears the pants in that relationship,” said Alirio Sanchez 46, a laborer on fruit plantations outside Bogota. “But Zuluaga seems to have some good ideas.”
 
No love lost
 
Security improved significantly under Uribe although his fierce campaign against the FARC often seemed to border on the personal: his father was killed by the rebels in a botched kidnapping. Some believe he will only be content if the rebels are crushed on the battlefield.
 
Uribe left office with high approval ratings and he remains popular but his legacy was tainted by accusations of corruption and of wire tapping opposition politicians and journalists.
 
A similar scandal is now hurting Zuluaga.
 
Colombia's chief prosecutor alleges that Zuluaga's camp sought to damage the peace talks by hacking into negotiators' emails - and Santos's - and the scandal could harm Zuluaga in the final days of the campaign.
 
A video appears to show Zuluaga being briefed about secret military intelligence by a man now in custody and facing spying charges for his role in the hacking case. Zuluaga had denied knowing what the alleged hacker was doing and how any data could be used in his campaign.
 
He said the video is a montage but some of his rivals called on him to pull out of the race.
 
Still, Zuluaga and Uribe appeal to Colombians who are skeptical of the peace talks.
 
During negotiations in the late 1990s, the FARC was ceded a Switzerland-sized area to run and used it to strengthen its  military position while continuing to kidnap people and use the cocaine trade to fund the conflict.
 
Zuluaga says if elected he would give the rebels eight days to down their weapons and halt talks if they refuse.
 
The FARC has refused a unilateral ceasefire.
 
While Santos is campaigning on the issue of peace, Zuluaga has coupled criticism of the talks with a focus on fighting crime, improving health and education and creating jobs.
 
Polls show those concerns are more weighty than war which is no longer a daily worry for many, particularly in urban areas.
 
Still, Santos pulled out an ace card last week with government and rebel negotiators reaching a deal on the third item of the five-point peace agenda: the illegal drugs trade.
 
If Santos can turn that advance into votes, Uribe's hopes of putting another ally in office may be on hold for at least another four years.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Tourism, Farm Groups See Bigger Business With Cuba

'We are the closest major food producer that Cuba has,' an American Farm Bureau Federation spokesman notes
More

Castro Lauds US Outreach, Says Cuba to Remain Communist

In speech to lawmakers, Cuba's president says economic reforms will be accelerated, yet changes will be gradual
More

Raul Castro Steps Out of Brother's Shadow With US Deal

Cuban president scores diplomatic triumph, surge in support with this week's deal that ends decades of hostility with United States
More

US Report: Immigration Officials' Apprehensions Rose in 2014

Apprehensions of Mexicans fall 14 percent; those of individuals from other countries, predominantly in Central America, rise 68 percent
More

Strife, Mutual Interests Mark Cuba-US Ties

Island nation was once a vacation destination for Americans; over years, many Cubans sought refuge across the Florida Straits
More

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change
More