The landslide victory of Juan Manuel Santos as Colombia’s president opens a new chapter in the story of a nation that has come to rely less on personalities than on institutions grounded in the rule of law. In a region that swoons over chest-thumping autocrats (Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez) and populist charmers (Bolivia’s Evo Morales), Santos’s win sets Colombia apart.
But Colombia isn’t just holding its own in a rowdy neighborhood: building on the legacy of his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, Santos is poised to lead a new elite class of the global economy: the CIVETS. In the acronym-filled taxonomy of globalization, the CIVETS are midsize economic powers—Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South -Africa—that are hailed as the new stars of the emerging markets. And it’s no accident that Colombia gets lead billing. In the past eight years, the Andean nation has gone from dud to dynamo: foreign investment has risen 250 percent. Its stock index is up 15 percent this year, and 35 percent (versus Brazil’s 14 percent) over the decade. That lead is now Santos’s to lose.