Juan Manuel Santos convincingly won re-election today after Colombia's tightest presidential contest in years, an endorsement of his 18-month-old peace talks to end the Western Hemisphere's longest-running conflict. Santos defeated right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga with 53%-to-47% of valid votes with 99.7% of precincts reporting. Zuluaga was backed by former two-term President Alvaro Uribe, who many considered the true challenger. They accused Santos of selling Colombia out in slow-slogging Cuba-based negotiations.
They also insisted Zuluaga would halt the talks unless the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, ceased all hostilities and some of its leaders accepted jail time. The outcome affirmed Santos' position that he has steered Colombia to a historic crossroads after a half-century of conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives, mostly civilians. The campaign was Andean nation's dirtiest in years, and Uribe continued to allege widespread fraud by the Santos camp right up to the closing of polls. But Zuluaga graciously conceded defeat in front of his supporters less than an hour after the result became known. Click for more. (Read more Colombia stories.)