Colombian Senate President Roy Barreras called on Vice President Angelino Garzon, to explain his alleged support for establishing a national governmeny body, which would allow a committee of popularly-elected delegates to change the constitution, reported Colombian media Wednesday.
Confusion has ensued since Tuesday when reports surfaced that Vice President Garzon called U Party Senator Juan Carlos Velez, a loyalist of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, to endorse a national constituent assembly to amend the constitution.
The assembly would be comprised of a committee of delegates chosen by the Colombian electorate, charged with making potential constitutional changes based on a majority vote. A constituent assembly has not been convoked in Colombia since 1991, which passed the country’s current constitution.
A national constituent assembly is one of only three mechanisms, along with a congressional vote and referendum, that may be employed to change Colombia’s constitution.
As various political interests stand to benefit from constitutional amendments, the exact purpose of the national constituent assembly is unknown. Critics of Alvaro Uribe have claimed a constitutional amendment would simply be a backdoor that would allow him a third tilt at the presidency. Uribe dismissed this idea Wednesday, calling it a “smokescreen” by his opponents.
Garzon allegedly supports the idea of a constituent assembly as a way to address judicial reform, following the recently-failed justice reform bill that congress approved, before President Santos scrapped it after last-minute unconstitutional changes were made behind closed doors.
Garzon’s potential support for the constituent assembly is significant insofar as it would place him at odds with President Juan Manuel Santos, indicating a serious rift in the U Party, to which both he and Santos are members. Santos publically opposed such a move on July 20, calling attempts to change the constitution via a national constituent assembly or referendum as, “inconvenient and dangerous,” and warning”we know where [the changes] start but not where they end.”
Rumors questioning the vice president’s mental facilities have recently emerged in the Colombian media, as Garzon only recently reported back to work after spending several weeks in intensive care recovering from a stroke he suffered in June.