BOGOTA: Colombians went to the polls yesterday in a cliffhanger presidential election that has become a referendum on peace talks with FARC guerrillas.
Voters will choose between President Juan Manuel Santos, who is seeking a second term, and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a vehement critic of the president’s peace talks with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Santos, 62, cast his ballot shortly after polls opened, with Colombians still euphoric over their national team’s 3-0 World Cup victory on Saturday over Greece. “On this day that is so important, big things are being defined for the future of our country,” Santos said.
The bid to end Latin America’s longest guerrilla war has emerged as the central issue of the run-off elections, which descended into mudslinging between the two candidates.
Zuluaga, 55, has long been opposed to the peace talks and campaigned under the slogan “No to impunity.” But he now says that he would negotiate with the rebels under stricter conditions.
After voting, he promised “to work, from the closing of the polls, for a negotiated peace, without hate or rancor.”
Santos argues that Colombians must choose between “the end of the conflict or an endless conflict.” The internal war has left more than 220,000 people dead and forced five million to leave their homes over the past half century.