Colombian leader's support melts away

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The Independent Online
Bogota (Reuter) - Colombia's main opposition party said yesterday it had withdrawn all support from the embattled government of President Ernesto Samper.

The announcement was made by Senator Fabio Valencia, a director of the powerful Conservative Party, which is the main rival of Mr Samper's Liberal Party. Four current members of the Samper cabinet, including the Foreign Trade Minister, Luis Alfredo Ramos, are members of the party or affiliated to it in some way.

"After consulting with a representative number of lawmakers and party leaders, it has been decided that the Conservative Party would pay a better service to the country at this time by withdrawing from the administration you preside over," Mr Valencia said in a letter to Mr Samper. "As of today, whoever stays in the government does so in his own name and without compromising the Conservative Party."

The withdrawal was prompted by fresh charges earlier this week that Mr Samper accepted millions of dollars in Cali drug cartel money to finance his 1994 election campaign.

The Health Minister, Augusto Galan Sarmineto, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, resigned on Tuesday in protest over the charges.