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Colombia court ruling: No third term for Uribe

The shocking Colombia court ruling on Friday that blocks conservative US ally President Álvaro Uribe from seeking a third term has ended nearly two years of political limbo.

By Sibylla BrodzinskyCorrespondent / February 28, 2010

Students holding a Colombian flag celebrate a decision by the Colombia court that would bar President Alvaro Uribe from running for another term. This means there will be no third term for Uribe, one of the country's most popular presidents for his U.S.-backed campaign against leftist guerrillas.

Fredy Builes/Reuters


Bogotá, Colombia

The Colombia court ruling last week that blocks President Álvaro Uribe from seeking a third term put an end to nearly two years of a tense political limbo and sent candidates scrambling to see who might succeed the popular leader.

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The court ruled as unconstitutional a proposed referendum that would have sought to allow Mr. Uribe to run for a third time in May elections. In a 7-to-2 ruling Feb. 26, the court said that the measure would have changed the spirit of the Constitution and that it was fraught with irregularities and “substantial violations to democratic principles.”

With Uribe – a staunch US ally whose approval ratings have consistently hovered around 60 percent – officially out of the picture, the campaign for the May 30 presidential elections began in earnest.

Uribe has not tapped anyone as his preferred successor but has called on whoever follows him to continue his “democratic security” policies. In a speech after the court’s ruling was announced he said: “We must not lose our path.”

'Democratic security'

Uribe is largely credited with bringing Colombia back from the brink of becoming a failed state, besieged by leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug mafias. Through tough security policies, billions of dollars in US military aid, and the demobilization of right-wing militia armies, murder rates plunged, rebels were routed from major urban centers, and security forces regained control of areas once without a state presence.

On a pedestrian street in downtown Bogotá after the court’s ruling, Arley Mantilla, a former soldier, said the court’s ruling worried him. “I lived the fight in the jungles and I think that without that man in the presidency we could go back to where we were before,” he said, reflecting the kind of unequivocal allegiance that led many of Uribe’s backers to want to see him stay in power.

But Álvaro Páez, a doorman, said it was time for someone else to run the country. “We need a change. Enough is enough,” he said.

Who will voters turn to?