José de Córdoba, reporting at the Wall Street Journal, points out,
In Vote, Colombia Ponders 2 Futures
The candidates in effect pose a referendum on whether Colombia is safe enough to become a kinder, gentler place where human rights and the law are given the same priority as security.
On the one side is Juan Manuel Santos, candidate of Mr. Uribe’s so-called Party of the U, who was Mr. Uribe’s tough defense minister. Mr. Santos, seen as a safe choice, is the grandnephew of a Colombian president and the cousin of Mr. Uribe’s vice president, and has headed the finance and commerce ministries. Until recently, his family owned El Tiempo, the country’s most powerful newspaper.
On the other side is Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus, a philosopher-turned-politician who served two terms as mayor of Bogotá and who sports a prophet-type beard. Many Colombians credit him with instilling a new sense of civility and taming crime in Bogotá when he first became mayor in 1995. But some wonder if the famously eccentric Mr. Mockus, who once showered with his wife on live TV to show residents how to save water, can handle the tough cast of characters that still lurk in the country’s jungles.
Two events this week crystallized voters’ challenge. Guerrillas ambushed a Colombian marine patrol, killing nine soldiers in the deadliest attack on the military so far this year. That could help Mr. Santos by underlining remaining security challenges.
Mr. Santos could also be harmed by scandals that have dogged Mr. Uribe, including renewed allegations the president knew that a brother was linked with a paramilitary death squad 16 years ago, a charge they deny.
Both candidates are pro-U.S. and market friendly, and pledge to continue to bear down on Latin America’s oldest and biggest insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. While weakened, the guerrillas still have about 8,000 fighters.
In addition to the FARC, human rights and the economy, the candidates will have to deal with Chávez:
Colombians wonder, for example, how Mr. Mockus would handle next-door Venezuela’s volatile President Hugo Chávez, an ally of the FARC guerrillas who has shut down the border between the two countries, costing Colombia thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost trade.
Just last evening Hugo was being his usual charming self, saying he’ll be the first one to call the newly-elected president (my translation: if you use this translation please link to this post and credit me):
“Let’s hope they elect a person one can talk to.”
“You can’t have a relationship with a government like the current one (Uribe’s), who lends itself to the empire’s (meaning the USA) game to assault a neighboring country.”
The election’s on Sunday. We’ll see how it all turns out.
The WSJ print edition front-page article’s title is “In Vote, Colombia Ponders Two Paths”.