A proposal that could allow FARC guerrillas to take part in a congressional committee in charge of ratifying contents of ongoing peace talks with the rebel group has caused unrest in Colombia’s Congress.
According to a revision of a bill that seeks the creation of a temporary “mini-Congress” and expand presidential faculties, non-congressmen could be given seats on the the Special Legislative Commission responsible for the implementation of the peace deal.
Senator Roy Barreras (U Party) who put forward the proposal said that it would give the Special Legislative Commission the opportunity to hear the thoughts of academics, law experts, magistrates and retired servicemen.
Opposition senator Claudia Lopez (Green Alliance) denounced the idea, telling press that “it gives the president the faculty to name non-congressmen to the Special Legislative Commission, this effectively means giving seats to the FARC.”
Lopez added that the proposal had not been discussed or approved at Congress and refused to accept its legitimacy.
According to the Green Alliance Senator, “far from helping [peace], this weakens it; while we are not sure that the FARC will demobilize, disarm, reincorporate into civil life, submit to justice and honor the victims it is a mistake to offer them seats.”
Barreras told reporters that “the issue is much more simple than Senator Lopez thought,” adding that he had tried to explain it to her in detail and get her on board but could not get in contact.
Barreras claimed that he is in agreement with Lopez that the government must not give seats to the FARC but insisted that this proposal was designed to invite observers to accompany the debates. The non-congressmen would have a voice but no vote.
Barreras emphasized that he “does not agree with offering seats for the FARC,” adding that “President Santos has never proposed such a thing and we are not going to do it.”
Congress is currently debating a number of proposals that seek a referendum and a quick ratification of deals made with the country’s oldest and bloodiest rebel group.
Three years after peace talks were formalized, both the government and the FARC have expressed optimism about the outcome, even promising that peace will be reached before March 23 next year.
If successful, the peace talks would end 51 years of violence between the FARC and the Colombian state that has left 263,000 Colombians dead and more than 6.5 million displaced.