Colombia's Uribe now closer to a third term
Lawmakers passed a measure late Tuesday calling for a referendum on whether to allow the popular President Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term. Critics say that would be bad for democracy.
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Late Tuesday, Mr. Uribe came one step closer to staying in power for another four years after lawmakers passed a measure calling for a referendum on whether to allow him to run for a third term.
Uribe still hasn't said publicly whether he will run if given the chance, but to Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, "It's clear he's made up his mind," since he has done nothing to stop the referendum campaign that would let him run again in 2010.
If Uribe – a staunch United States ally – does seek a third term, he will be taking a page out of the book of Mr. Chávez, and a slew other of Latin American leftist leaders, whose moves in recent years to extend their hold on power have raised concerns about eroding democratic institutions.
For the past decade, leaders across the continent have reversed strict constitutional limits that allowed presidents to sit for only one term. Those restrictions were put in place to prevent leaders from holding on to power for too long.
In Colombia, Congress amended the Constitution to allow Uribe a second term in 2006.
But in Venezuela, Chávez took it a step further, successfully ending term limits on the presidency in a referendum in February.
Following in Chávez's footsteps?
Despite hand-wringing in Latin America and Washington over what critics said would be giving Chávez carte blanche to run ramshod over Venezuela's democracy, there were no real repercussions when the referendum passed.
"It didn't really cause a tremendous backlash," says Mr. Shifter. "Uribe probably had his eye on that."
At the same time, the fact that Chávez could be around indefinitely gives Uribe more reason to want to stick around himself, Shifter says. "That's yet another reason why Uribe thinks he can't take the risk of leaving power."
But others in Latin America have their eye on Colombia to see what happens with Uribe, which Shifter says could have "regional implications."