Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Colombian President Elected on Economic Plan Samper Intends to Tackle Unemployment with `Social Capitalism'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Colombian President Elected on Economic Plan Samper Intends to Tackle Unemployment with `Social Capitalism'

Article excerpt

LIBERAL Party candidate Ernesto Samper Pizano was elected president of Colombia Sunday over Conservative Party candidate Andres Pastrana Arango in the closest presidential race Colombia has seen in more than two decades.

Mr. Samper, dubbing his platform "social capitalism," promises to increase social spending and slow the pace of privatizing government enterprises, contrary to Latin America's current trend. Samper, an economist, says his aim is to mitigate the negative side effects of his predecessor's neoliberal program.

Patricia Lara, editor of the newsmagazine Cambio 16 says, "Free trade won't be as free with Samper as it would have been with Pastrana."

Results from the National Registry Office gave Samper 50.3 percent of the vote to Mr. Pastrana's 48.6 percent, with 99 percent of polling stations reporting. Peaceful elections

These elections were peaceful in contrast to the 1990 presidential campaign, when three candidates were murdered, victims of drug-related violence.

Though drug money's influence on the candidates has not yet been measured, it was a campaign issue. US officials leaked information to the press that they had warned both candidates against accepting campaign contributions from drug traffickers.

Samper responded by offering to open his campaign ledgers to anyone who wanted to examine them. Pastrana challenged Samper to sign a letter swearing to resign from the presidency should drug contributions be discovered in the campaign.

Otherwise, drug trafficking was not a big issue in the campaign. Although Colombia is the No. 1 producer of cocaine in the world, trafficking is very low on the list of Colombians' worries. They are more concerned with street crime and unemployment. Since the Medellin drug cartel - with its campaign of violence designed to intimidate - has been dismantled, Colombians feel relatively unaffected by drug trafficking.

But both candidates spoke out against a recent Supreme Court decision decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, hashish, and methadone intended for personal use.

This is the first presidential election under the 1991 Constitution, which gives Colombia a vice president for the first time. …

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