Juan Manuel Santos Wins Second-Round Colombian Presidential Election in Lop-Sided Vote

President-elect Juan Manuel Santos places his vote on Sunday's second-round election.
President-elect Juan Manuel Santos places his vote on Sunday's second-round election.
President-elect Juan Manuel Santos places his vote on Sunday's second-round election.
President-elect Juan Manuel Santos places his vote on Sunday's second-round election.

Today in Latin America

Top Story –Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos easily cruised to victory in a second round presidential election on Sunday, winning roughly 69 percent of the votes with 99 percent of the ballots counted, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo.

The opposition candidate, former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus of the Green Party, admited defeat and thanked his supporters.

Santos served as defense minister for current President Alvaro Uribe, whose security policies, designed to rein in a half-century old marxist uprising led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have made him one of Colombia’s most popular presidents.

Santos made it clear that he will continue Uribe’s hard line against the FARC. “Let the terrorists hear, and let the world hear: the FARC’s time has run out,” Santos said during his victory speech on Sunday, according to Mexican news agency El Milenio.

Seven Colombian police officers and three soldiers were killed in separate incidents by suspected leftist guerrilla groups on the day of the election, The Associated Press reports. The Colombian authorities suspect the FARC of involvement in one of the attacks.

As a high-ranking official in the Uribe administration, Santos has shared both the praise and criticism of President Uribe’s security policies.

Uribe has dealt heavy blows to the FARC. The Colombian military killed the FARC’s second-in-command, known by his nom de guerre as Raúl Reyes, in an airstrike along the Ecuadorian border in March 2008. The FARC were further debilitated two months later when their leader and founding member, known as Manuel Marulanda, died of a heart attack. An increased military presence, financed largely by more than $6 billion in U.S. aid through a program called Plan Colombia, has made Colombia’s cities and major highways more secure.

Uribe has also presided over the release of some key FARC hostages. A military operation recovered a group of 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, in 2008. The Uribe administration also negotiated the release of some of the longest-held hostages, Pablo Moncayo and Josué Daniel Calvo, in March. Both had been in captivity for 12 years.

The Sunday before the election, the Colombian military led another attack against the FARC, resulting in the release of another four hostages.

But Uribe’s security policies, known as “democratic security” in Colombia, have also drawn criticism. An incursion into neighboring Ecuador during an attack by Colombia’s armed forces against a FARC camp led the Ecuadoran courts to issue an arrest warrant for Santos.

Santos was also in charge of the military during the “false positives” scandal, in which members of the Colombian military killed noncombatants and dressed them up as guerrillas in order to inflate combat statistics. A number of military officers resigned because of the scandal, including the head of the army, though U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston found no evidence that the killings constituted official government policy.

Santos will take office on Aug. 7, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Other Top News: The mayor of the Mexican town of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, Manuel Lara Rodríguez, was killed on Saturday by gunmen in the city of Ciudad Juárez, where he had fled after receiving death threats.

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

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