Wed, 02 Sep 2009 09:17:38 GMT
Colombian legislators have approved a bill calling for a referendum on a constitutional reform to allow President Alvaro Uribe to run for a third term.
The bill was approved in the early hours of Wednesday in an 85-5 vote, after a tough debate that lasted more than 12 hours.
The move by the House of Representatives must still be endorsed by Colombia’s Constitutional Court.
The referendum would ask voters if Colombia should modify its constitution to allow presidents to run for two consecutive re-elections.
The constitution, which was already modified once in 2006 to let Uribe run for a second four-year term, allows for a single immediate re-election.
The conservative US-backed Uribe has not yet said publicly if he would make a 2010 run to stay in power.
Opposition groups and even some of the 57-year-old president’s supporters have openly opposed reforming the constitution, saying that another term for Uribe would undermine Colombia’s democracy.
However, some of the president’s supporters say he is the only leader who can tackle the leftist FARC guerrillas after he launched a massive operation — aided by billions of dollars in US funds — against the rebels, driving them back into the jungles and remote mountains of Colombia.
Uribe’s government is currently under fire by other Latin American states over Bogota’s plan to give US troops access to Colombian military bases through a 10-year lease agreement.
The top US ally in the region claims that the deal is only an extension of an existing cooperation with Washington to weed out drug smugglers and leftist guerillas.
Many South American countries, however, believe that Washington is using the regional war on drugs as a pretext to boost its regional military presence.
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