Colombian Congressional President Armando Benedetti announced that arrested senator Javier Caceres can not be replaced by a party member and his seat must stay empty.
The senator’s seat must stay empty because of a recent law that prevents the seat of any representative under criminal investigation from being filled until the next election. If this “empty seat” principle is adopted in the case of Caceres, his seat will remain empty until the next election in 2014.
Caceres was arrested Tuesday over allegations that paramilitary group “Heroes de Montes de Maria” financed his election campaign. He denies all allegations.
Benedetti has requested the exact charges against Caceres from the Supreme Court so congress can decide whether or not the empty seat bill will apply.
German Varon, the co-director of coalition member Cambio Radical, the political party to which Caceres belongs, argues that Caceres can be replaced as the investigation against the senator began before the political reform was adopted by the Colombian Congress.
The political reform was adopted by Congress to push political parties only to present “clean” candidates in elections. The suspension of a lawmaker would lead to less votes in Congress.