Santos Wins Majority in Colombian Presidential Runoff Election

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won a second four-year term in elections today, gaining a mandate to push ahead with peace talks to end a 50-year insurgency by Marxist guerrillas.


Opposition leader Oscar Ivan Zuluaga conceded defeat after Santos, 62, a former journalist who studied at the University of Kansas, won the runoff vote by 50.9 percent to 45 percent, according to the Electoral Council. Santos will be sworn in on Aug. 7.


The government has held talks in Cuba since 2012 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, seeking a negotiated end to a conflict that has cost 200,000 lives. Zuluaga, an ally of former President Alvaro Uribe, had pledged a “full-frontal assault on terrorism” and demanded tougher conditions before he would negotiate with the FARC, including a unilateral cease fire.


“This was essentially a referendum on the peace negotiations, and that’s what determined Santos’ triumph,” said Laura Wills, director of Visible Congress, a Bogota-based group that promotes political transparency. “This is a vote of support for the progress that’s been made in the talks.”


The Colombian soccer team’s 3-0 victory over Greece in the World Cup yesterday probably helped the incumbent as well, generating a mood of national optimism, said Sandra Borda, a professor of politics at Bogota’s Andes University.

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