WASHINGTON will have breathed a sigh of relief that the apparently unstoppable march of left-wing victories in South American elections has met a roadblock in Colombia where the presidential election has just resulted in the return of an authentic right-wing candidate. The Colombian people gave a strong vote of confidence to the incumbent Alvaro Uribe who for the last four years has vigorously pursued free-market, law-and-order policies while at the same time showing the flexibility to offer negotiations to some of the drugs-dealing guerrilla organisations that have have plagued rural life in particular for many years while continuing to crack down on those unwilling to reform. President Uribe's victory was the more remarkable tbecause it was achieved by a clear margin over his low-key left-wing opponent and without the necessity of a run-off election for the first time since the foundation of the republic. We shall have to wait to see whether this result turns out to be an exception that proves the rule or the start of a re-think among South American voters. The former is the more likely because after, decades of rule by military dictatorships and corrupt right-wing governments operating primarily in the interests of big business, the people of South America have seen that they can control their own destiny through the ballot box. Whether this will lead to better government over time remains to be seen but for the moment President Uribe has offered a viable alternative.