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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Colombia's Uribe wins second term
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
Alvaro Uribe has promised to stick with hardline policies
Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has been re-elected in a landslide election victory, taking 62% of the vote, the country's electoral commission says.

Mr Uribe, who changed the constitution so he could run for a second term, wins another four years in office.

Correspondents say his tough policies against drugs and militants paid off.

There was no major violence on election day, after huge numbers of security forces were deployed, and Farc rebels pledged not to interfere.

President George W Bush called Mr Uribe, who is Washington's main ally in Latin America, to congratulate him.

"The president spoke of the strong friendship between our countries," a White House spokeswoman said.

"The president reaffirmed his strong support for Colombia in its continued battle against narco-terrorism, in moving forward on our free-trade agreement and in helping our democratic friends in the region," she said.

With nearly all ballots counted, Mr Uribe had 62% of the vote - well over the 50% needed to win in the first round.

He pledged to carry on his tough conservative policies.

"With the heroism of our soldiers, we will move forward to have a more secure Colombia," he told supporters.

"Democratic security has started to regain the liberties that terrorism had taken from us."

His closest challenger, left-wing senator Carlos Gaviria, took 22%.

He accepted defeat, declaring: "We're very happy with the results. For the first time in the country's history the main opposition party will be comprised of the democratic left."

Tranquil poll

The Marxist Farc guerrillas kept their promise and did not interfere with the day's voting, which passed almost without a hitch and ranked as one of the calmest days of balloting in more than a decade, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota.

ALVARO URIBE
Colombia law graduate; also attended Oxford and Harvard
Former mayor of Medellin
Father killed in bungled kidnap attempt by Farc rebels

The electoral body said there had been no problems with the voting, even in the more remote rural areas under guerrilla control.

In a BBC interview, Mr Uribe suggested he would be prepared to hold peace talks with the rebels, provided they proceeded in good faith.

But Mr Gaviria said any solution to violence in Colombia also had to address the issues of poverty and inequality.

Some 220,000 soldiers and police officers were put on duty for the election to safeguard the six presidential candidates and 26.7 million voters.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Mr Uribe is only as good as he and his media friends claim he is
Fernando Gomez, Atlanta

Mr Uribe has been an ally to Washington, at a time when other Latin American countries, for instance Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Bolivia under Evo Morales, have been turning against the US.

The result suggests Colombians have rejected left-wing alternatives, as well as the traditional liberal and conservative parties that have dominated Colombia's political life since independence from Spain, says our correspondent.

Safer cities

Government figures suggest Mr Uribe's hardline policies have been successful, with the 15,000 murders last year fewer than half the figure three years before, when Mr Uribe was elected, and kidnappings cut by two thirds.

A voter is frisked at a Colombian polling station
There was massive security around Colombian polling stations

However critics say he has neglected social policies.

The Colombian government has been fighting a four-decade war against Marxist insurgents, that has left up to 200,000 people dead.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Bogota, says Colombia remains a very violent country, but that it is now much safer to walk the streets of the major cities.

Thousands of paramilitaries have disarmed, and the government says it is in control of the whole country - though this is debatable, our correspondent says.

He says also that, despite huge investment in the fight against cocaine, the supply of the drug to the West has hardly been affected.


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