Colombians decided Sunday to give President Juan Manuel Santos four more years to clench his signature project — a peace deal with the nation’s guerrillas that might end a half century of civil conflict. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Santos had won 51 percent versus 45 percent for former Finance Minister Oscar Iván Zuluaga. Months of whiplash polls and bitter recriminations boiled down to a difference of about 900,000 ballots in a race that was largely seen as a referendum on ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana. After he plowed through a crowd of supporters and white-clad children waving cutouts of doves, Santos said he was determined to clench a peace deal.
“This is the end of more than 50 years of violence in our country and the beginning of a new Colombia with more freedom and social justice,” said Santos, 62. “It’s a Colombia that will be at peace with itself.”
The vote was something of an upset for Zuluaga, 54, who had won the May 25 first-round election by three points and had been leading in some polls.
In his concession speech, Zuluaga accepted the results but said he had battled a candidate who had “all the machinery of the state” in his favor. He also called on the administration to listen to the almost 7 million people who voted against it.
“We’ve waged a battle full of ideas, proposals and dreams for Colombia,” he said. We “demand a voice in creating the policies around a negotiated peace.”