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Excepts from media coverage of Colombia’s presidential election

“The Uribe wind is not only an endorsement of a worldview favoring security, the rule of law and global engagement for Colombia. It is also evidence of a backlash against economic isolation and hostility toward private property preached by Mr. Gaviria and Mr. Chávez next door. As such it casts a ray of hope on the Andean region, which has been trending toward left-wing, authoritarian populism of late.”


“He came to power four years ago when Colombia was riven by armed conflict and its economy was barely out of its first recession in seven decades. In the eyes of most Colombians, Alvaro Uribe has since transformed their country. Life in the main cities is more secure, and it is now possible to drive between them with little likelihood of being kidnapped. The economy has grown at an annual average rate of 4.7%, rising to 5.0% last year.”

“The economy has rebounded during Uribe’s term, growing 5.3% last year. Although he can hardly take credit for the global boom in the prices of oil, coal, sugar and coffee – all prime Colombian exports – he does get plaudits from financial analysts for having gotten the country’s fiscal house in order. After averaging 25% annual inflation from 1970 to 1997, the rate fell to 4.5% last year.”

“The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Colombia notes that today’s presidential elections have taken place in an atmosphere of freedom, transparency and normalcy, which allowed citizens to renew their commitment to democracy…
The Mission believes this electoral process is evidence once again of the determination of the Colombian people to strengthen their institutions through the democratic mechanisms that the inter-American community promotes and defends.”


“President Uribe is getting credit for engineering an economic revival, powered by domestic demand, and improving the investment climate by cracking down hard on drug cartels. He has helped cut the government deficit from 6 percent of GDP in the late ’90s to 1.4 percent and is promising to rationalize the tax structure if he wins a second term.”

“The results will be welcomed in Washington. The Bush administration sees Colombia as a key ally in a region that has recently seen left-leaning populists spread their influence, especially over energy resources.”

“The anti-yanqui populists who have seized power across the continent – notably Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela – are profiting from a widespread cynicism towards the political class. Many South Americans feel, with justice, that the organs of the state are abused by one clique or another for private gain. Their cynicism is caused, in other words, not by economic deregulation, but by its precise opposite: excessive state power. A government that owns large industries and has many vehicles for patronage will almost by definition be more corrupt than a slimmed-down state of the kind that Mr. Uribe is building in Colombia.”

“Investors will look for Uribe to place greater emphasis on the budget, including changes to the tax code and an extension of the cap on local government transfers to provincial governments, laws that may help prevent the central government’s deficit growing further, said Morgan Harting, an analyst with Fitch Ratings in New York.”

“Colombia’s re-election of Alvaro Uribe not only stands conventional wisdom on its head about Latin voters’ rejection of free markets. It also proves that democracy lives south of our border. Most pundits don’t have a lot to say about Uribe’s sweeping victory over the weekend, other than it’s an anomaly in a region supposedly swinging left. That misses the point. Colombia’s voters had choices. But they went for Uribe’s bold resolve against terror, and for tax cuts, free trade pacts and a no-apologies friendship with the U.S.”

“Now that he has four more years to make good on his promises – among them a commitment to streamline and expand the tax base, reform the pension system and pass a new law that regulates transfers to local governments – he may need to move quickly before his re-election momentum slows.”

“Uribe also embraces open trade, unlike some newly elected leftist leaders, such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales who prefers nationalizing foreign firms. Colombia’s leader has signed a free-trade agreement with President Bush – a pact the US Congress should approve in order to help turn Colombia into a strategic ally in the region.”

“The market-friendly policy continuity that is expected to accompany Uribe’s re-election is a further boon to the country’s credit story. Also important is that March congressional elections handed Uribe’s coalition majorities in both houses, as Uribe’s administration now has tremendous political capital for pushing through reforms, setting the scene for possible credit upgrades if those measures are successful.”

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