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New Colombian President Promises a "Democratic Security"

BY Admin  May 27, 2002 at 12:45 PM EST

Uribe, whose victory in the first round of voting indicates a high level of public support, campaigned on a platform that included doubling the size of the military and creating a civilian guard organization.

But following his electoral win, the 49-year-old lawyer said he would talk with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group he has pledged before to wipe out.

“They have wasted many opportunities for peace – they will always have opportunities,” he said.

In his victory speech broadcast on national television, Uribe also promised his government would provide “democratic security for all”.

“Security, so [the rebels] don’t kidnap the businessman, so they don’t kill the labor leader, so they don’t extort the rancher, so they don’t force the peasant to flee his home,” the president-elect told cheering crowds.

The Harvard- and Oxford-educated Uribe also called on the U.S. and the international community to be patient as his war-torn nation works to end 38 years of civil war.

“The international community must know Colombia has expressed a wish to restore civility, order,” he said. “Colombia does not want the world to hear only bad news of violence.”

The U.S. ambassador, for one, said her government was ready to work with the new administration when Uribe takes power in August.

“Colombia and the U.S. have many big issues to deal with, drug trafficking, human rights and the fight against terrorism. We’re ready to work with the next government,” she said.

The election came as violence between the government and the FARC continued to increase. Ahead of the election, the leftist rebels planted car bombs, attacked power lines and reportedly gunned down a rural mayor.

The Colombian government responded by deploying nearly 200,000 troops and police to provide security over the election weekend. International election observers have also accused left- and right-wing armed groups of using intimidation and violence to influence voters.

Despite the fact the FARC caused difficulties in fewer than 10 of 1,000 municipalities, official figures for the election show that only 46 percent of registered voters turned out, a low figure even for Colombia.