By Ken Kelley
As Colombians prepare to vote in presidential elections on May 30, opinion polls show former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos of President Alvaro Uribe’s National Unity Party (Partido de la U) with a commanding lead to replace his former boss, who was barred from seeking a third term earlier this year. A poll released by the National Consulting Center on April 8 shows Santos with 37 percent of the vote, Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus with 22 percent—surprising given the party’s formation just last year—and Conservative Party candidate Noemí Sanín with 20 percent.
To boost his campaign, Santos has pointed to government victories over the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during his tenure as Defense Minister, such as the killing of No. 2 commander Raúl Reyes during a cross-border raid into Ecuador in 2008 and the rescue from FARC captivity of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and others the same year. As for the infamous “false positives” scandal in which Colombian soldiers—on possibly thousands of different occasions—murdered innocent civilians and dressed them up as guerrillas, Santos has admitted that the Prosecutor General is currently investigating nearly 1300 such cases. He maintains, however, that “there are people who want to inflate the numbers, make the problem bigger, without taking into account how it is hurting the institutions”, something the military might have taken into account before engaging in the murder of innocents.