Voters in Colombia are taking part in the country’s presidential elections. The current head of state, Alvaro Uribe is favourite to win the poll. About 28 million people are qualified to vote in Colombia.
Uribe, a conservative lawyer, has won support for his uncompromising line against the Marxist guerrillas. He has also had some success in persuading right wing paramilitaries to disarm. But violence and the illegal drug trade remain problem areas.
The left wing candidate Carlos Gaviria is well behind Uribe in pre-election opinion polls.
In third position is the veteran liberal politician, Horacio Serpa, who is campaigning to reduce inequality in the country.
Half of Colombia’s population lives in conditions of extreme poverty. The left wing guerrillas of the FARC movement said they would not try to disrupt the election. Yet three marines were killed in an ambush with rebels in a rural area.
The government has put the armed forces on alert and mobilised police and other agencies to maintain security at nearly 10,000 voting stations across the country.