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.
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.
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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics