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Contra el TLC - Against CAFTA

Colombia President Uribe Approval Falls On Free Trade Talks

BOGOTA -(Dow Jones)- The popularity of Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe fell in early November because of disapproval over free trade negotiations with the U.S., according to a poll published by Gallup.

The poll, carried out by Gallup between Nov. 1 and Nov. 9, showed that support for Uribe, Washington's closest ally in Latin America, declined in November to 72%, compared with 80% in the last poll taken two months ago, Jorge Londono, Gallup's general manager told Dow Jones Newswires in a telephone interview.

The fresh poll comes just days after the Constitutional Court cleared the path for Uribe to run for re-election in March 2006. Uribe is expected to announce whether he will run for office a second time before Nov. 28.

The Gallup poll showed that 70% of those interviewed approved Uribe's re-election, down from 74%, two months ago.

Only 42% of those surveyed approved of the talks to create a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., down from 55% in August.

Talks have been underway in Washington since Nov. 14 on the 13th - and supposedly final - round of negotiations to complete a trade deal that would include Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The agreement would give the three Andean nations better access to U.S. markets, and allow U.S. products into their own markets, though it does little to stimulate cross-border trade between them.

According to Javier Fernandez Riva, owner of the Bogota-based consultancy bearing his name, said the trade deal would carry some costs for certain parts of the Colombian economy, such as agriculture and local manufacturers supplying the domestic market.

These two industries will face stiffer competition after an FTA is signed and may cut jobs, Fernandez Riva said.

Uribe is still more popular than all his potential rivals with an approval rating almost 20 percentage points higher than Antanas Mockus, a former Bogota mayor who may run for president, Gallup said.

The pollster surveyed 1,000 people in the main cities of the country and the margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

-By Diana Delgado; Dow Jones Newswires; 571-600-1980;

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