Colombians reflect on election issues

Security, health, education and the economy rank as the most important issues for Colombians.

Last updated: 24 May 2014 12:36
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Al Jazeera spoke with voters in Medellin about which campaign issues are most important [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
Medellin, Colombia - Polls are showing an increasingly tight race ahead of Sunday's presidential election in Colombia. Juan Manuel Santos, the incumbent and former defence minister, is running neck-in-neck with Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former senator. Both leading campaigns have been hit by high-profile scandals in recent weeks. 
Key issues in the race include ongoing peace talks between the government and FARC rebels, the economy and the broader security situation. 
Al Jazeera spoke with voters in Medellin about which campaign issues are most important to them, how life has changed in the past five years during Santos' presidency, and their views on the future.
Francisco Restrepo, delivery driver

[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

Security is the most important issue; it's getting better. There will never be peace with the guerrillas. Things were better during [former President Alvaro] Uribe's tenure than they are now. I would like to see more security help [from the US]. If Uribe didn't go against human rights, then his campaign [against FARC rebels] couldn't have worked. The economy now is getting worse and prices are higher. 

Johay Hernandez, air conditioner technician

[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

All the issues are important, but there are two main factors. [First] the economy - prices are rising and there is a lot of inequality. The other issues are social issues. Here we have a lot of insecurity, [although] I feel more secure today than I did five years ago. I support the peace talks [between the government and FARC rebels]; they should do the impossible. We need help [from the US and other countries] at this moment, as we can't do it [improve security] by ourselves. I have hope for the future.

Gloria Elena Lotero, pensioner
[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

Social factors: health, education and employment, are the most important issues. Life is worse today than it was five years ago. Colombia is a rich country, but corruption won't allow us to move forward. Corruption and lies are stopping more social inclusion. For example, the politicians said they were going to build one million houses for the poor, but in reality, they only built 150,000. The same is true for education, health, pensions and roads. It's a good thing that the US is giving us money for security; I think the money has been used well.

Jose Reyes, retired civil engineer
[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

The biggest problem in Colombia is the ineffective justice system. The quality of education [is also a problem], and [the government needs to pay more] attention to small farmers. I think peace talks are important, but there have been too many delays. If I could give the next president one piece of advice: give more help to the campesinos [small farmers].

Maria Victoria Garcia, lawyer

[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

The most important issue is honesty. The people need clarity on the candidates. More or less, I think the situation has gotten better in the last five years. I will vote for [incumbent President Juan Manuel] Santos because he has been working for peace. For me, security has improved; it's a process. I think the quality of life has improved, as the government is giving more help to the lower classes.

Eleazar Rodriguez, butcher

[Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

For me, security is the most important issue. Security is the same as it was five years ago. There isn't an honest person in government. The majority of people are too quiet; we don't claim our rights when we elect a government. We don't elect left parties because we were hurt by the things the left [guerillas] did to us. I think my life will be the same in the next five years, not better or worse. It doesn't mater who we choose; they're all the same. 

Follow Chris Arsenault on Twitter: @chrisarsenaul


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