Colombia: Moving Beyond 'Narco-Democracy'
Q. Outgoing President Uribe is widely credited with crippling the guerrillas of FARC and ELN, and
A. In certain respects, President Uribe and his former defense minister, candidate
On other matters, however, notably the economy and corruption, the government's polling numbers have grown increasingly negative over time. In
By more than two to one, those polled late last year considered the economy, rather than security, as the country's key problem. Three-fourths of the population thought that unemployment was worsening; 61 percent disapproved of the government's handling of the cost of living; and -- in a sharp reversal of earlier trends -- 57 percent disapproved of Uribe's handling of the fight against poverty.
Q. How do the platforms of the two leading candidates differ? Which constituencies find Santos most appealing? What about Mockus? How are they positioning themselves vis-a-vis Uribe's legacy?
Santos, by contrast, represents continuity as well as experience. He has held three different ministerial posts in the past, whereas Mockus has never held national office. He is seen as the most likely to continue consolidating the Uribe administration's gains in the security arena, although neither Mockus nor the other major presidential candidates propose to break with the security policy. Santos has more support than Mockus in rural areas, in smaller towns, and among the poor, testimony to the way violence has exacted its heaviest toll on lower income groups living outside the major cities.
Q. What is it about Mockus that has made him the surprise in this election?
A. As recently as
Over the past several years, dozens of politicians of the uribista coalition have been prosecuted or jailed for ties to outlawed paramilitary groups; the country's internal security police known as the DAS spied on members of the
Against that record, a candidate who promises democratic legitimacy, and has a record of having provided good government, can be deeply appealing. Moreover, Colombians in general, and its youth in particular, want something better for their country than to be seen in the eyes of the world as a narco-democracy. Young people have volunteered for the Mockus campaign in droves, using the media and social networking to mobilize their cohort. Santos, by contrast, has waged a more traditional and staid campaign.
Q. What will be the challenges for the next president? How will he likely grapple with issues such as persistent poverty and unemployment, or the new rise in criminal gangs that are reportedly involved in the cocaine trade?
A. The challenges for the next president will be substantial but not insurmountable. The guerrillas have suffered punishing defeats but continue to have a strong presence in some areas of the country. Maintaining the momentum on the security front will be crucial. As some security challenges have receded, others have emerged. New heavily armed groups involved in narco-trafficking have been formed, terrorizing the civilian population and continuing their quest for territorial control of drug trafficking corridors. There will be no choice but to continue to combat these groups. Also important will be a rural development strategy that provides viable economic alternatives to coca growing for the rural poor. Rates of poverty and indigence in rural areas -- where the conflict still festers -- far surpass those of urban areas, and consolidation of the institutions of civilian governance -- schools, health centers, a system of justice -- continues to lag.
According to the
Another challenge is that assembling a governing coalition in the legislature will be much more difficult for Mockus than Santos. Mockus's
A. U.S. aid to
Should U.S. economic recovery fail to improve current high levels of unemployment, however, trade agreements will continue to be very hard sells in the
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- font class='bodyfontc2'>Colombia: Moving Beyond 'Narco-Democracy'
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