Members of the Colombian Senate and House of Representatives are to be given diplomatic passports, following presidential approval.
Members approved the bill granting themselves the privilege Wednesday after three debates that passed with few complications.
The bill’s author, Senator Carlos Emiro Barriga, said it would allow members of Congress to travel to some countries without a visa and exempt them from certain taxes. He told Caracol Radio, “It will allow us to make certain procedures easier (…), airport transfers in terms of immigration, access to VIP rooms and special rooms for diplomats – facilitating the role that we carry out as parliamentarians when we are invited by other governments.”
The Senate President Juan Manuel Corzo told W Radio that parliamentarians should get “special treatment.” He said official Congress passports were already “very similar” to diplomatic ones, adding, “The benefit is that when they get special invitations to other countries, they will get special treatment in customs.”
The bill was passed when the President of the House, Simon Gaviria, who had concerns about the bill, left the room. Alberio Vanegas, who supported it, presided over the vote in his place.
Gaviria had expressed reservations that the government did not have the consitutional right to direct diplomatic affairs. He was also worried about the implied diplomatic immunity, which he said was certainly granted by some countries just by virtue of holding this type of passport.
But Colombia’s Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernandez de Soto denied that the passports would provide diplomatic immunity. He said, “It is simply identification for servants of the state. Immunity is only granted by accreditation that a receiving state recognizes as giving that immunity.”