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News Analysis: Colombia's new president faces major challenges

08-06-2010 10:45 BJT

by Luisa Fernanda Cuellar

BOGOTA, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The new president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, in the next four years will face a number of challenges, with parliamentary unity, military order and regional integration at the top.

Santos, who takes office Saturday, throughout his career has led a project named "National Unity," which aims to bring together all sectors of Colombian society.

Until today, except for some minority movements, the would-be president has managed to congregate communities that have greater representation in the Congress.

According to Bibiana Clavijo, a researcher at the University of the Rosario, Santos already controls 85 percent of the legislature.

However, one of Santos' challenges in terms of governance will be "to maintain that unity throughout his administration," especially to secure the approval of reforms in health, taxation and justice, Clavijo told Xinhua.

Maintaining unity can turn into something complicated because congressmen "do not respond properly to the interests of the government, but to their political parties and the voters they represent," the academic said.

On the other hand, since Santos hopes for re-election, he should strive for good results because depending on that, "people will punish him or reward him in the polls," Clavijo said.

Jorge Restrepo, director of the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (CERAC), said Santos has a great challenge in terms of crime in Colombia's cities.

"Since mid-2005, we haven't seen substantial falls (in rates) of homicides. There have been very mild falls and in a couple of years it has even increased in some places, including capitals of the department of Medellin (northwest) and Cali (southwest)," Restrepo told Xinhua by telephone.

According to the latest report from the National Institute of Legal Medicine, homicides increased from 15,250 cases in 2008 to 17,717 last year, an increase of 16.2 percent.

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