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Monday, June 22, 1998 Published at 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK

World: Americas

Pastrana's path to presidential victory

President-elect Andres Pastrana, left, greets supporters after his victory

The BBC's Richard Collings: "Pastrana has spent a decade trying to win."
Conservative opposition candidate Andres Pastrana has spent most of the past decade trying to win the presidency in Colombia.

The 44-year-old lawyer and son of the late Colombian president Misael Pastrana became the capital city of Bogota's first popularly-elected mayor in 1988.

[ image: Samper: scandal tainted]
Samper: scandal tainted
In his first bid for the country's top job, he was narrowly defeated by the Liberal Party's leader Ernesto Samper four years ago.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Pastrana dropped a political bombshell by revealing that his rival's supporters had accepted campaign donations from drug barons.

He disclosed a taped phone conversation in which a leading Cali cartel drug trafficker discussed what turned out to be a $6m donation to Mr Samper's campaign, unleashing a political furor and an investigation.

Drugs link scandal

Mr Samper was cleared of wrongdoing in 1996, but the "narco-cassettes" scandal consumed his administration. More than a dozen Congress members, a defence minister and an attorney general were convicted.

The scandal ultimately led to the defeat of the Liberal Party's presidency.

Mr Pastrana was elected to the Senate in 1991 but stepped down in 1993 to launch his first bid for the presidency.

[ image: Pastrana supporters in Bogota]
Pastrana supporters in Bogota
During his six-month election campaign, Mr Pastrana used "change" as his single word slogan.

He called for the restoration of Colombia's tattered international image and promised to fight poverty and corruption.

He also promised to launch peace negotiations with left-wing guerrilla groups.

Close call to victory

Mr Pastrana and his rival Horacio Serpa from the governing Liberal Party gained an almost equal share of the vote in the first round of the elections three weeks ago.

[ image: Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio Serpa lost out]
Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio Serpa lost out
However in the runoff election, Mr Pastrana officially beat Mr Serpa with just over 50% of the vote.

Mr Pastrana's victory has broken the Liberal Party's 12-year hold on the presidency, but the party still controls a majority in Congress.

He is backed by business leaders and many prominent Colombians, including Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

However, Mr Pastrana's credentials to lead a country beset by drug traffickers, a 34-year civil war, growing paramilitary violence and spiralling unemployment have come under question.

Some analysts say that Mr Pastrana is out of touch with poor Colombians, and that despite his good intentions and honest profile, he is not up to the job.

"He's a light person, in all that that implies, for a country that doesn't necessarily have light problems," political analyst Hernando Gomez Buendia was quoted as saying.

Mr Pastrana will take office on August 7.

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