Third Terms: No in Brazil, Maybe in Colombia

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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced today that he has no intention of running for a third term in next year's election.

Brazil's Constitution states that presidents can only hold office for two consecutive terms, but Lula's popularity, and the health of his chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff had generated speculation. Rousseff, the most likely candidate for Lula's Worker's Party, is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Sao Paolo's Syrian-Lebanese hospital for lymphoma.

Lula, who is visiting Turkey, expressed confidence in Rousseff's recovery and encouraged her to not stop working.


In Colombia, however, this week the Colombian Senate approved a referendum that would amend the Constitution to allow president Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term. Like Brazil, Colombia's constitution limits presidential terms to two consecutive terms. The 62-to-5 vote was missing 26 opposition senators who walked out in protest.

Supporters of a third term collected 5 million signatures last year, and the lower house approved a measure that would require Uribe to sit out a term before being able to run again in 2014; the uppor house measure approved yesterday would allow him to run again next year. The constitutional change would require a minimum turnout of at least 70 percent of Colombia's eligible voters, but first both measures would have to be reconciled, and then approved by the Constitutional Court before there is any referendum. Even with a 70% turnout, Uribe would need "50% plus one" votes.

While Uribe is very popular and is credited for defeating the narco-terrorists, there are many arguments against his running for a third term, particularly since he would be perceived as yet another democratically-elected Latin American head of state who stayed on to undermine the country's institutions.

Adding to the controversy, one of the sponsors of the signature drive was David Murcia Guzmán, allegedly a mafia money launderer, who is currently in jail.

Uribe has not announced publicly whether he would run again. Will he? Time will tell.

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