Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday named German Vargas Lleras as his vice presidential running mate, a popular choice that will likely boost his chances of winning a second straight term in office later this year. Vargas Lleras, a former Santos cabinet minister and senator, will campaign for election in May and promise to help bolster economic growth and steer peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels to end Colombia’s half-century war. Santos is the front-runner by far to win the election in a second round of voting in June, but having the popular Vargas Lleras as running mate raises his chances of clinching a first-round win.
“German Vargas Lleras meets the requirements of vice presidents like few other Colombians,” Santos told reporters in Bogota. “We have cultivated a sincere friendship over the years based on loyalty and honesty … such virtues are every day more scarce in politics.”
A candidate needs more than 50 percent of the ballot to avoid a runoff.
A rival for president in the 2010 election, Vargas Lleras became Santos’ key ally in government, helping increase both politicians’ approval by handing out free housing to the nation’s poorest as housing minister.