Colombia's President Uribe Wins in Landslide

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe glided to re-election Sunday, capturing 62 percent of the vote in the country's most peaceful elections in more than a decade. Host Steve Inskeep discusses the election with New York Times reporter Juan Forero in Colombia.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The president of Colombia has been reelected in a landslide.

Alvaro Uribe got 62 percent of the votes cast in yesterday's election, which is three times the percentage of his nearest rival. It was also Colombia's most peaceful election in years.

Juan Forero covered that election for The New York Times. He's in Bogotá. Mr. Forero, welcome to the program.

Mr. JUAN FORERO (Reporter, The New York Times): Hello. Thank you. Nice to be here.

INSKEEP: Would you remind us who the president is and what he stands for?

Mr. FORERO: Well, the president is Alvaro Uribe, and Albaro Uribe stands for security in Colombia.

He was elected four years ago to try to pacify this country, which had really been on the edge of terrible violence and was really out of control. Now he was just reelected.

INSKEEP: And does his decisive win think he's delivered on that promise of security?

Mr. FORERO: Well, people feel that he has gone a great way to deliver on that promise. And it is true that he has rolled back some of the guerrilla gains of the last few years. This country is still very violent.

There are still many serious problems, but people feel that they can get out on the roads, that some of the towns in this country that were out of control are now in control, and that there's a state presence in areas where there had not been in the past.

INSKEEP: And you've also had this three-way civil war, if we can put it that way. You've had the government, you've had these Communist guerrillas, and you've also had right-wing paramilitary groups that fight against the Communist guerrillas. Is there less fighting than there was?

Mr. FORERO: There is less fighting than there was, and one of the major reasons for that is that the right-wing paramilitaries have entered into a negotiation that is leading to a demobilization of that group.

People, though, here in Colombia, have overlooked very serious problems with that demobilization. There are many people here, folks who live out in the countryside as well as many experts, who say that the paramilitaries are actually evolving into something quite different and possibly more serious than what the group was before.

INSKEEP: More serious?

Mr. FORERO: Yes. A very - a large and very entrenched mafia, particularly along the northern coast that is heavily involved in drug trafficking as well as controlling small town governments and really provincial governments also.

INSKEEP: These are the dangers that people blamed on the Communist guerrillas in the past. You're saying now it's the right-wing groups that are doing all this?

Mr. FORERO: Yes, it is. There's a different semantics at play here, and this is a regional problem; particularly, as I mentioned, along the northern coast and along the border with Venezuela.

But people here in Colombia have overlooked some of these issues.

INSKEEP: Mr. Forero, thanks very much for speaking with us this morning.

Mr. FERRERO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Juan Forero is a reporter for the New York Times in Bogota, Colombia, where the incumbent president, Alvaro Uribe, just won a landslide reelection with 62 percent of the vote.

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