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Santos wins Colombian presidential election

BOGOTA, Colombia — Sunday's presidential runoff amounted to Don Quijote vs. The Machine — and the outcome was predictable.

Relying on a well-oiled campaign apparatus and close ties to outgoing President Alvaro Uribe,
former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos easily defeated Antanas Mockus of the opposition Green Party.

With 99 percent of the polling stations reporting, Santos had 69 percent of the votes compared to 27.5 percent for Mockus, a former Bogota mayor. Santos will be sworn in on Aug. 7.

To Mockus supporters, it was a triumph of fear over hope.

Santos won by promising to continue with Uribe's national security policies that have driven back Marxist guerrillas, reduced kidnappings and vastly improved security in much of Colombia. Uribe endorsed Santos, who served as his defense minister from 2006 to 2009 and was instrumental in planning a series of spectacular military operations against the rebels.

"There was a fear about going back to the old days" when the guerrillas were creating havoc, said one analyst who is close to Santos. "People just didn't want to risk it" by voting for Mockus.

For awhile it seemed like Mockus would present a serious challenge to Santos.

After barely registering in pre-election polls, Mockus gained momentum by pledging to run an honest administration and award government jobs based on merit rather than political favors. Polls leading up to last month's first round presidential vote showed the two candidates in a dead heat.

Instead, Santos nearly scored an outright victory in the six-candidate field, topping Mockus by more than 30 points. In the three weeks leading up to Sunday's runoff Mockus failed to recover and the result, according to El Tiempo newspaper, was the biggest rout ever in a Colombian presidential election.

Santos supporters say their man was simply the better candidate.

In televised debates, Santos came across as experienced and presidential. He stayed on message and never became flustered when he came under withering attacks from Mockus, who after running a largely positive campaign suddenly turned negative.

Mockus tried to paint Santos as a greasy, wheeler-dealer tainted by the controversies that swirled around Uribe, such as a domestic spying scandal and the killings of innocent civilians by army troops.
But Santos has never been linked to any wrongdoing and sports an impeccable resume. He studied at Kansas, Harvard and the London School of Economics and served in previous administrations as trade and finance minister.

Besides keeping pressure on the guerrillas, Santos says that creating more jobs will be his No. 1 priority.