March 13, 2008 / 3:05 PM / 12 years ago

Popularity of Colombia's Uribe hits record high

BOGOTA, March 13 (Reuters) - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s popularity rose to a record high 82 percent, according to a Gallup pole published on Thursday, thanks to his handling of a recent diplomatic spat with Ecuador and Venezuela.

The two neighboring countries broke diplomatic ties with Uribe’s government and sent troops to their Colombian borders after he ordered a military strike into Ecuadorean territory on March 1 to kill a top leftist rebel leader.

The poll of 1,000 Colombians was taken at the high point of the crisis, from March 4-6, as regional leaders criticized Colombia for violating Ecuador’s sovereignty.

But the conservative Uribe won points at home first by ordering the strike that killed FARC rebel leader Raul Reyes and then with his handling of the diplomatic dispute, which was settled at a summit in the Dominican Republic on Friday.

He accused the leftist leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela of not cooperating in the fight against drug-running Colombian guerrillas but promised no more incursions into neighboring territory.

The poll, taken by Gallup Colombia Ltd. in Colombia’s four biggest cities — Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla — had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

The last survey by the same company in January gave the president a popularity rating of 80 percent.

Colombia’s economy has picked up under Uribe, who won re-election in 2006 after cutting urban crime and spurring investment with his U.S.-backed crackdown on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

His strongest supporters are gathering signatures in support of a measure to change the constitution to allow him to run for an unprecedented third term in 2010. (Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Eric Beech)




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