Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday ceased broadcast of his weekly town-hall meetings in the strongest signal yet that he wants to run for a third term in May’s election.
This month Colombia’s inspector general encouraged the courts to approve a law passed by Congress to hold a referendum asking voters if they want to change the constitution to let U.S.-ally Uribe run again.
Inspector Alejandro Ordoñez said if Uribe were to run in May, he should stop appearing on television every Saturday in his town hall-style meetings because they may give him an unfair advantage over his rivals.
The president’s decision to cease the broadcasts is the most concrete sign he has yet given that if allowed to run he would do so.
Before this he had said the decision was up to “God, the people and the Constitutional Court.” The court is expected to give its ruling on the referendum bill in the weeks ahead.
A government spokesman said Uribe would follow Ordonez’s recommendation and, beginning this week, halt TV transmission of his Saturday community meetings.
“Very few people have doubted that he wanted to be a candidate. Now nobody doubts it,” said Santiago Castro, a long-time Uribe supporter and Conservative Party member of the House of Representatives.
Uribe, who is popular for his U.S.-backed crackdown on drug-running guerrillas, has appeared at 262 town hall meetings, which are known locally as Community Councils, since he first won office in 2002, on promises to crush the leftist insurgency.
He is seen by Washington as a business-friendly buffer between socialist presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador.
Investors have grown comfortable with Uribe. There could be a sell-off in stocks and bonds if he is barred from running.
But any price dips would probably be short-lived. Polls show that nobody who wants to win the presidency can do so without adopting Uribe’s economic and security policies.