Colombia’s government has proposed a constitutional reform to create a legislative commission and grant President Juan Manuel Santos extended powers to implement a possible peace deal with the FARC guerrillas into law.
According to a press release from the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday, the legislative commission would take effect once a peace agreement has been signed in Havana and once it has been voted on by the Colombian population.
The FARC has insisted that a constituent assembly made up of representatives from all sectors of society would be a preferable way to implement the peace deal.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo announced that such a constituent assembly will not be formed, instead he proposed a bill for the legislative act for peace, saying, “peace in Colombia must necessarily go through Congress.”
The bill, which will now go through Congress for approval, consists of two articles: the first allows the creation of a special legislative commission responsible for converting the peace agreements into laws; a second article extends special powers to President Juan Manuel Santos valid for 90 days from the signing of the agreement in Havana.
The special commission would be made up of senators and congressman and would not include the participation of representatives from the FARC, according to Cristo.
As for the special powers extended to the president, he would be able to pass ordinary laws for decisions that are urgent for the implementation of the peace deal, especially in the crucial first few months which require the state to be decisive and execute the arrangements of the deal accurately. The president would not be able to make constitutional reforms or statutory laws.
To speed up the fulfillment of the peace deal the time taken for legislative procedures will be reduced. A law will be debated twice rather than four times, once in the special commission and once at general congress. A constitutional reform will be debated three times rather than eight, first in the special commission then the Congress and the Senate.
On the other hand, the act has been rejected by the Democratic Center and met with indifference from the Democratic Pole.
The Democratic Center, led by former president Alvaro Uribe who has been a staunch critic of the peace negotiations, revealed that they would not take up their nine seats in the special commission.
Spokesperson for the party, Ivan Duque, said this constitutional reform “is a blow from the state against the population and democracy,” adding that the proposal to give the president extra powers makes a mockery of the law and deceives the Colombian people.
The government justifies its proposal by citing the urgency of the matter, claiming that Colombia is only a few months from reaching an agreement in Havana and needs to create exceptional mechanisms to implement the deal.
According to the government, this act will guarantee “agility, efficiency and fidelity to the deal” during the process that will cement the peace agreements in law.
Negotiators for the FARC expressed their surprise at the proposal of this bill saying, “unilaterality and imposition are shortcuts which should not be taken because they lead to failure.”
Peace talks have been taking place between the state and rebel group the FARC in Havana Cuba since November 2012 with the hope of resolving Colombia’s 50-year-long civil conflict which killed 260,000 people and left over 6 million displaced.