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Leftist leads in Colombia's capital as nation votes following violent campaign

Leftist leads in Colombia's capital as nation votes following violent campaign

A left-wing opposition party held a large advantage in the race for mayor of Colombia's capital Sunday after violence-marred regional campaigns across the nation.
While conservative President Alvaro Uribe remains widely popular, polls indicate that the party he defeated for the presidency last year may take the second most important elective post in the country _ Bogota mayor.
Samuel Moreno, grandson of a military dictator, held a lead of 40 percent to 22 percent over independent former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, according to a poll published Saturday by the newspaper El Tiempo. The survey by the Datexco company had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
Moreno's Alternative Democratic Pole already governs Bogota, but consecutive victories would be a boost for his party ahead of the 2010 presidential race. With nearly 7 million people, the capital is home to a sixth of Colombia's population.
Moreno has seemed to shrug off controversies _ notably a pro-Moreno article posted on a Web site favorable to Colombia's leftist guerrilla movements, and his statement in a debate that he would buy 50 votes if he knew his rival had purchased 50,000.
On Friday, Uribe issued an appeal for voters which was widely interpreted as veiled plea to reject Moreno, saying, "Don't make a mistake in electing mayors supported by the guerrillas who also buy votes."
At stake Sunday are 32 governorships, 1,098 mayorships and thousands of lesser offices.
There were no immediate reports of violence as polls opened Sunday.
Gen. Freddy Padilla, commander of Colombia's armed forces, said 170,000 soldiers and police were being deployed to safeguard the elections following a campaign in which about 30 candidates were killed, according to the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights.
A bomb exploded Friday near the violent Pacific port city of Buenaventura, killing two marines and a woman and wounding nine others, the navy reported. But it was not immediately clear whether the blast was related to the election.
In an effort to contain violence, the government has restricted the carrying of arms and dangerous materials and banned the sale of alcohol until Monday morning.
Yet the capital, which had been spared the campaign violence afflicting much of the rest of the country, was tense over the weekend. Witnesses reported hearing a huge explosion late Saturday night on the city's outskirts. Police and bomb squad members rushed to the area, but were unable to find anything.


Updated : 2021-10-19 11:49 GMT+08:00