Colombia report fuels debate over Uribe reelection

A top Colombian judge has recommended that the country's highest court reject as illegal a proposal to allow President Uribe to seek reelection in May.

Colombia report fuels debate over Uribe reelection

A top Colombian judge has recommended that the country's highest court reject as illegal a proposal to allow President Alvaro Uribe to seek reelection in May, a former mayor and local media said on Thursday.

The report if confirmed would fuel doubts on the political future of Uribe, a key Washington ally popular at home for his U.S.-backed security drive against leftist rebels and with Wall Street for his pro-investment policies.

Citing court sources, local newspapers and radio reported that Constitutional Court Judge Humberto Sierra had recommended in a confidential paper that his eight fellow magistrates rule against the reelection proposal.

A court spokesman could not confirm details of the report reserved for magistrates. But ex-Bogota mayor and former presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus, said on his Twitter account he had details Sierra urged magistrates to vote no.

Sierra's report is a nonbinding recommendation and the judges still have two months to make their official ruling. But a negative recommendation could lend weight to those arguing against allowing Uribe a third consecutive term.

Colombia's peso opened trading down 0.56 percent, following regional currencies pressured by the stronger dollar but also due to uncertainty generated by the media reports.

"I think there are people who are nervous and who are taking defensive positions with this news, so we could see a sell-off of local TES bonds and buying of dollars," Camilo Perez, director of investigations at Banco de Bogota.

The nine judges must decide whether to allow a referendum on amending the law to allow Uribe to run for a third term. His eight years in power have been marked by successes in the country's long conflict with leftist guerrillas.

Uribe urges caution 

Uribe, already reelected in 2006 after one constitutional amendment, remains non-committal on whether he will run again. But the possibility of reelection is drawing criticism from his opponents and even allies worried over Colombia's democracy.

The conservative leader recently said his political future depended on "God, the people and the court". But he has stopped weekly broadcasts that would violate electoral law and his top officials have lobbied incessantly for the reelection.

"About the future of the country, allow me to say the following: we must improve the path we are taking, but we must not change it," the president told a local radio station.

Should Uribe fail to secure the court's backing, any successor would likely stick broadly to Uribe's security and pro-investment policies. Violence from Colombia's war has ebbed and foreign investors have been drawn by improved security.

Constitutional Court chief Nilson Pinilla told local radio that magistrates would convoke extraordinary sessions to rule on reelection as soon as possible.

But time is short for authorities to organize a referendum with parliamentary elections scheduled in March and the presidential vote two months later. A negative recommendation from Sierra could also lengthen the process.

"All this takes time, the debate takes time," said Jaime Castro, a former Bogota mayor and constitutional lawyer. "This could be a death blow for the referendum."

Reuters

Last Mod: 04 Şubat 2010, 20:12
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