World News

Factbox: Facts about Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe

(Reuters) - Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Friday rejected a referendum on allowing President Alvaro Uribe to seek re-election, ending the U.S. ally’s chances of running for a third consecutive term in May.

Here some key facts about Uribe and his government:

* Born into a rich, cattle-ranching family, Uribe took an early interest in politics, apparently telling family at the age 4 he would one day become president. He was a mayor, twice a senator and a state governor before reaching the presidential palace. As a politician and candidate, he survived several assassination plots, including once when he walked calmly away from his buckled car after a rebel bombing.

* Uribe’s own life was marked by the country’s war when his father was killed during a botched rebel kidnapping two decades ago. He came to the presidency just as attempts by his predecessor to negotiate with the FARC rebel leadership fell apart and his hard-line message was well received by Colombians weary of constant bombings, massacres and kidnappings.

* Known for his tough work ethic and stern, conservative appearance, the bespectacled president has practiced yoga to ease tension but at times appeared happiest riding on one of the fine horses he keeps at his farm. Every Saturday he holds a town hall meeting where for hours he berates ministers and local officials for inefficiency, takes questions from residents and discusses programs for roadworks and aqueducts.

* Critics say the president has often been intolerant of journalists, court judges and leftist politicians who opposed his government. Rights groups questioned his commitment to cracking down on right-wing paramilitary commanders who demobilized under his government after years of battling FARC rebels. But Uribe, known for ability to brush off trouble, has managed to maintain popularity rates above 60 percent despite scandals over corruption, rights abuses by troops and state spies illegally wiretapping his opponents.

* The idea of re-election dominated much of his second term as his allies drove the proposal through both houses of the Congress, fueling criticism that other legislation was abandoned. Uribe remained evasive on whether he even wanted to run. He once called the idea a “crossroads of the soul” and later said only God, the people and the court would decide his political future. He sometimes brushed off journalists asking about his ambition with the blunt reply: “Next question.”

Reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota