Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Pubdate: Monday 22 June 1998 
Author:  FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press writer


BOGOTA, Colombia -- A former Bogota mayor who promised to end rampant
political corruption was elected Colombia's president yesterday,
defeating a key player in the scandal-tainted administration of
President Ernesto Samper.

Andres Pastrana, in his second straight bid for Colombia's highest
office, had 50.5 percent against 46.4 percent for Horacio Serpa of the
governing Liberal Party with 97 percent of the vote counted in the
runoff election, official results showed.

"The choice was between business-as-usual or change and the country
clearly picked change," Pastrana, 44, of the opposition Conservative
Party, said in a television interview in which he promised to make
peace with leftist rebels his top priority.

Pastrana's victory broke the Liberals' 12-year hold on the presidency,
but the party still controls a majority in Congress and boasts a
well-entrenched patronage system.

Public anger with Samper's tenure helped Pastrana, a wealthy former
president's son who was narrowly defeated by the incumbent in 1994.
Many Colombians view Pastrana as an intellectual lightweight.

"Pastrana is bad and Serpa is corrupt. That's why I voted for the bad
one," said Luis Eduardo Gutierrez, a 59-year-old tailor interviewed in
Bogota's central square.

Serpa, a populist firebrand and veteran politician, was interior
minister for most of Samper's administration, defending the incumbent
in a corruption scandal that battered Colombia's international image
and economy.

In a concession speech, Serpa vowed to "continue fighting for the
people and for peace in Colombia."

Pastrana inherits a 34-year-old guerrilla war that has reached new
depths of violence in recent months, with stepped-up massacres of
civilians by right-wing paramilitary forces and assassinations of
human rights workers.

Hundreds congregated outside Pastrana's campaign headquarters,
blocking traffic. Some danced and others shouted "Andres. Andres"

Voter turnout was 54.7 percent, down from 43.3 percent in the 1994

Pastrana pledged to help "the poorest people, the most marginalized.
That is our commitment, to improve the quality of life of 18 million
Colombians who today live in poverty."

The May 31 first round of elections was a virtual tie between Pastrana
and Serpa, with independent candidate Noemi Sanin, who was backed by
anti-corruption forces, placing a close third. Pastrana apparently won
the lion's share of Sanin votes.

Compared to other recent elections, relatively little rebel violence
was reported.

Guerrillas attacked two helicopters and ambushed a police truck on
Sunday in two separate incidents, killing two police officers and
wounding six, officials said. Since Friday, guerrillas have kidnapped
at least 11 election officials and burned 37 vehicles nationwide.

Samper, accused of links to drug traffickers, bought the support of
regional political bosses by doling out hundreds of millions of
dollars in public funds. Meanwhile, unemployment soared to 14.5
percent and the deficit more than doubled.

"Serpa is a continuation of Samper's politics, which have busted the
country's economy," said Jairo Chaustre, 31, a helicopter pilot who
voted for Pastrana.

Maria Elena Restrepo, a 41-year-old publicist voting in Bogota,

"Just because someone has a relative who is a thief doesn't
necessarily mean that they are themselves a thief," she said.

Like Samper, the 55-year-old Serpa was cleared of any wrongdoing in
the scandal over $6 million in contributions from the Cali drug cartel
to Samper's 1994 campaign -- the president by a loyal congress and
Serpa by the chief prosecutor.

Serpa was a top aide in Samper's 1994 campaign. Both candidates billed
themselves as the best chance for peace but the country's oldest and

largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
tacitly endorsed Pastrana last week.

Serpa had pledged to lower the work week from 48 to 40 hours, earning
the scorn of big business. Pastrana, son of the late President Misael
Pastrana, has promised a computer for every schoolchild and a cut in
the sales tax from 16 percent to 12 percent.

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Checked-by: (trikydik)