Colombia Election Surprise: Juan Manuel Santos Routs Antanas Mockus

Article excerpt

Polls had suggested that upstart Antanas Mockus was in a dead heat with Juan Manuel Santos in the Colombia presidential election. But Mr. Santos won the first round handily. He will face Mr. Mockus on the final ballot on June 20.

A race that was in a deadlock ahead of presidential elections in Colombia today ended with a clear lead for former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, who captured 46.6 percent of votes.

Because Mr. Santos, a staunch ally of conservative President Alvaro Uribe, did not get 50 percent of the votes, he will face off against former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus on June 20. Mr. Mockus, second in a field of 9 candidates, captured 21.5 percent of votes.

Mockus had surged before the race, with polls showing he would capture 32 percent of votes, just slightly less than Santos with 34 percent. Many analysts surmised that his popularity represented a shift in priorities for Colombians, away from security and towards jobs and more transparency.

But the results of the first round Sunday, with 99 percent of votes counted, show that security remains a top concern. Otilia Girado, who was born on the islands around the Caribbean city of Cartagena, says that President Uribe's tough stance against guerillas, drug lords, and paramilitaries transformed their lives. Before he was president, fewer visitors came to Cartagena - and the islands - because they were afraid of violence in surrounding rural areas, she says.

"Now we have jobs," says Ms. Girado, looking on a beach overrun with tourists on a recent day. "I hope that Santos continues to keep the peace, because nothing matters without peace."

Unexpected turnabout

Both candidates promised they would not negotiate with the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but Santos, who served as defense minister under Uribe, was the obvious candidate of continuity. Although Mockus was neck-and-neck with Santos in the weeks leading up to the race, Santos crushed Mockus today. …