Colombia

Wikimedia Commons / Archivo de Marco Antonio Melo

  It’s on to Round Two in Colombia. Challenger Oscar Iván Zuluaga, a right-wing former Finance Minister, pulled an upset over the incumbent, President Juan Manuel Santos, in Sunday’s presidential election. But Zuluaga didn't get a majority ­­­– far from it at 29 percent to Santos' 26 percent – so they'll go to a run-off on June 15. 

Colombia’s peace process hangs in the balance – but Santos has to counter growing skepticism about his ongoing peace talks with the country's Marxist guerrillas, the FARC. Zuluaga has pledged to halt those negotiations.

Semana

Any presidential election in Colombia these days is a matter of high stakes.

That’s because the country – now South America’s second-largest economy and the United States’ most important ally on that continent – is in the midst of peace talks with Marxist guerrillas known as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, or FARC, to end a half-century-long civil war.

El Nuevo Herald

This week’s Colombian voter poll had to feel like a back-handed compliment for President Juan Manuel Santos.

The new survey by the Bogotá research firm Ipsos-Napoleón Franco shows Santos with a 17-point lead over his closest competitor in his bid to win re-election in May. But Santos garners just 25 percent of the vote. Half of those polled said they were undecided or intend to cast a blank protest ballot. That’s hardly cause for cumbia dancing at the Casa de Nariño presidential palace.

Flickr

When I interviewed Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last year in Bogotá, he crowed about foreign investment pouring into his country. A nation considered a failed, civil war-torn narco-state less than a decade ago was now one of South America’s hottest money magnets, doubling its take from the previous year.

“This is completely out of anyone’s imagination,” Santos said.

Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks has announced it's going to expand to Colombia.

The country is known for its Arabica beans and for the mythical coffee farmer Juan Valdez. He's helped sell Colombia's coffee for 50 years. Starbucks has cafes in 50 countries. And now, it's coming to perhaps the country most associated with coffee.

Howard Schultz, the company's chief executive, announced that the first shop will open in Bogota in 2014, followed by 50 more cafes and in other cities over five years.

Of all the violent cities of Latin America, one stands out as a great success story: Medellin, a metropolis nestled in the mountains of northwest Colombia.

Once the home of the cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, it recorded more than 6,300 homicides in 1991, making it the world's murder capital. Then, one city government after another built schools and libraries, parks and infrastructure. The police also received an overhaul and became more adept at going after violent trafficking groups.

El Placer is a remote hamlet deep in southern Colombia, on the edge of the Amazon. Founded half a century ago by farmers who found it fertile and bucolic, its name means "The Pleasure."

But for women and girls in El Placer who suffered years of sexual assaults after an illegal armed group stormed in, the name is only associated with unspeakable violence and murder.

Brigitte Carreño, 25, is among the women who suffered. A feared local warlord in El Placer raped her when she was 12, leaving her with searing memories that remain vivid and painful to this day.

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