By Carlos Quintanilla
Juan Manuel Santos, former National Defense Minister of Colombia, became President-elect with 69 percent of the runoff vote on Sunday, June 20. He defeated Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus who received 27.5 percent.
Nearly 30 million Colombians were eligible to vote in the runoffs, but only 9 million went to the polls. The rest, according to Diario El Tiempo, stayed home to watch the World Cup games.
In his victory speech given in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, Santos promised to continue the policies of his predecessor Alvaro Uribe. This statement contradicts a pre-election interview, according to Radio Caracol, in which Santos said his government would be different from Uribe’s in both priorities and style.
Santos, who was backed by Uribe, also vowed to maintain the outgoing president’s pro-business policies, which have attracted record levels of foreign investments and helped to weaken the region’s oldest rebel organization.
A US and British-trained economist, the former defense minister will take office in August with a strong mandate and solid support in the Congress.
The number of trade union members killed in Colombia this year has climbed to 31. The Central Union of Workers (Central Unica de Trabajadores (CUT), describes these slayings as “systematic,” despite government claims to the contrary.
Nelson Camacho, a worker at the ECOPETROL Refinery and a member of the Union of Oil Industry Workers (USO), was killed on June 17 by hired assassins.
This crime, the CUT said, is one in a series of attacks and threats against union leaders and workers, chiefly by paramilitaries. The organization has urged the Attorney General’s office to conduct a thorough investigation of Camacho’s assassination. According to Human rights activists, a significant number of union leaders were killed during the Uribe government.
Serious challenges await Manuel Santos.
Carlos Quintanilla produces and hosts KPFK’s Spanish Language News Program “Noticiero Pacífica,” which is broadcast over 90.7 FM on Saturdays at 4:00 PM. Noticiero Pacífica is the only independent news program focusing on Latin American issues for the Los Angeles area. P. O. Box 761475, Los Angeles, CA 90076. E-mail: <mailto:email@example.com>.