Colombian President’s lead slips in poll

BOGOTA, Colombia – Twelve days before Colombian presidential elections, President Juan Manuel Santos has fallen behind in a recent poll suggesting that payoff scandals and labor unrest have taken their toll on his reelection bid. 

With the elections set for May 25, a poll taken by the Centro Nacional de Consultoría y el Noticiero (CM&) shows President Santos and his Social Party of National Unity lagging behind his main rival Oscar Zuluaga of the Center Democratic party.

The polls show Zuluaga winning the first round of voting with 25 percent and President Santos just behind with 22 percent. 

If that scenario plays out, both candidates would have to enter a second round of voting on June 15. The CM& poll shows in a second round vote, Zuluaga would win the presidency with 42 percent compared to President Santos’ 34 percent. 

With the agricultural strike ending over the weekend, President Santos is now beset with the added headache of a proposed teachers’ strike on Wednesday which is set to leave an estimated 9 million students out of class. 

“There are three reasons for our strike, salaries, healthcare and workers’ evaluations,” said Luis Grubert, Director of the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fedecode) in an interview with El Espectador newspaper.

Since talks have been ongoing and the teachers’ unions and the Ministry of Education have been unable to reach an agreement, the nationwide strike is due to start tomorrow Wednesday. 

“There is no reason for Fedecode to call this strike, if there is one thing that characterizes the relationship between this government and the union; it’s a good working relationship,” said Colombian minister for Education María Fernanda Campo in an interview to RCN radio. “Do you know how many times we have met with the unions in the last three years? 172 times.” 

This election period has been riddled with intrigue including a smaller repeat of 2013’s agricultural strikes which blockaded much of the nation’s highways, accusations that President Santos’ campaign strategist received up to US$12 million from drugs lords, and now the threatened  education sector strike.

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