Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe says it would be inappropriate for him to seek a third consecutive term. His statement comes two days after the Senate approved a referendum that would ask voters to permit him to run again. Uribe did not, however, clearly rule out a re-election bid.
Uribe told a business forum in Bogota this week that he considers it inappropriate to stay on as president because the country has a lot of good leaders. He said he would not want future generations to look on him with bitterness as someone who is clinging to power. “I have been a fighter for democracy”.
Uribe during his almost two terms has been one of Colombia’s most popular presidents, and together with Brazil’s Lula da Silva has broken records of support according to public opinion polls.
His strong support is bases on the firm hand his country wanted, taking on leftist guerrillas, locking up hundreds of drug traffickers and attracting more foreign investment.
However he publicly admitted his doubts: “I have a responsibility with Colombians. When I take in the balance of everything, I find myself at what I call a crossroads of the soul, how difficult,” the president said on Thursday night.
A campaign by allies to change the constitution and allow the popular conservative to seek re-election is raising fears about Colombia's democracy. The idea of re-election is drawing comparisons to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a populist leader who also stayed in office after the constitution was amended and is not seen with good eyes in the rest of Latinamerica.
Uribe's remarks came just days after the Colombian Senate approved a proposed referendum on re-election, edging him closer to a possible run. A special legislative commission and the constitutional court must still approve the proposal before a ballot can be held this year.
Another issue to take into consideration is the United States reaction now governed by the Democrats. They are already calling for more conditions on Colombia's multimillion-dollar aid package and a proposed free trade deal, after scandals over human rights abuses by government forces.
By law, the Colombian president must announce his candidacy by the end of November, six months before the election.
Already alternatives, including some allies, are lining up for a possible run at the presidency. Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos resigned this week to seek the presidency -- but only if his former boss does not run.
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