Colombia elects new president
BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) --Colombian presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe
claimed victory in a somber speech to supporters at a Bogota hotel, after election
returns showed him with a solid majority in Sunday's vote.
"I would like to thank all of the participants of this beautiful show
of democracy and
patriotism," said the president-elect.
Uribe, a former provincial governor who campaigned as an independent,
53 percent of the vote, averting a runoff with his closest rival, Liberal Party
candidate Horacio Serpa.
Serpa conceded defeat earlier Sunday, after receiving about 31.7 percent
of the vote.
Wishing Uribe "lots of luck," he said, "Colombia expects a lot from you. I ask God
to illuminate you and make you wise."
The U.S. government was quick to acknowledge Uribe's victory. Ambassador
Patterson congratulated Uribe Sunday, saying his election indicated that the country
is fed up with a four-decade-old leftist rebellion. The election of Uribe would be a
positive development for U.S.-Colombian relations, Patterson said.
His victory followed a get-tough campaign aimed at the leftist rebels.
promised to increase military spending by $1 billion and double the size of the police
Uribe, 49, has survived several attempts on his life, most recently in April.
The government had dispatched security forces by the thousands to ensure
voting went smoothly, and voters responded by turning out in high numbers.
However, a few incidents of violence were reported. Voting was suspended
several municipalities after suspected members of the largest rebel group, the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, set fire to ballot boxes,
Near Bogota, in the town of Junin, two FARC guerrillas were killed when
they were driving exploded.
Voters at the Plaza de Bolivar overwhelmingly cited security as the
driving their choice. Those interviewed by CNN said they see no other solution to
nearly four decades of guerilla warfare other than the hard-line stance advocated by
Candidate and former Sen. Ingrid Betancourt drew less than 1 percent
of the vote.
Betancourt's name remained on the ballot despite her kidnapping in February by
suspected leftist rebels.