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COLOMBIAN TOWN VOTES IN EXPERIMENTAL ELECTION

CARTAGENA DEL CHAIRA, Colombia (Reuters) -- Residents of a war-torn Colombian town voted for a new mayor and town council Sunday in an experimental election process mapped out by leftist rebels and backed by the state.

The vote, thought to be the first of its kind in the country, offered a glimpse of the kind of blueprint for local organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia may put forward in peace negotiations later this year with President Andres Pastrana.

The 28 candidates hope Cartagena del Chaira, an isolated town in Caqueta province, might provide a model for grass-roots democracy in a country where the mainstream Liberal and Conservative parties maintain power despite claims of corruption.

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