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  AÑO 2010  

A Latin Role Model

Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: N/A
Date: 12 March 2010

Latin American history is littered with elected leaders who later turned into despots-see Chávez, Hugo. So when a Latin nation's political class obeys its constitution and denies a third term even to an enlightened and popular leader, it deserves applause.

Hats off, therefore, to Colombia, whose constitutional court voted 7-2 recently to strike down a law that would have allowed President Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term. Mr. Uribe responded like a democratic statesman, saying in a speech to the nation that "I heed and respect the decision of the honorable constitutional court."

Mr. Uribe will now leave office in August after eight years that mark him as one of Colombia's, and the world's, most consequential modern leaders. Inheriting a ruthless insurgency, he emphasized military strength and professionalism that has restored order and security to most of the country. Kidnapping and murders rates have dropped sharply, and it is now safe to travel on most highways. By improving the investment climate, he has helped modernize an economy that was backward for too long.

But the manner of his departure shows that his most important achievement may have been to boost Colombian confidence in its democratic institutions. With Mr. Uribe's approval above 65%, the legislature passed a law that would have let him run for a third term he undoubtedly would have won. But the court ruled against the law on procedural grounds regarding the collection of petition signatures needed to introduce the law and the way the bill moved through Congress. It also said that the law violated the constitution.

Mr. Uribe has also invested heavily in close relations with the U.S., and on that score Americans have let Colombians down. One of the frequent arguments that Democrats offer for refusing to allow a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement is that Colombia hasn't done enough to enforce the rule of law. The facts on the ground say otherwise. But we now have definitive proof that on the most important legal issue-the peaceful transfer of power-Colombia is a model democracy.

(Versión en español)

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