In the three months that followed a peace deal with Marxist FARC guerrillas, Colombia’s Congress has only been able to approve three of 30 bills that were supposed to be “fast-tracked” through the legislative body.
The “fast-track” mechanism allowed Congress to reduce the number of debates from seven to four in an attempt to swiftly implement the peace deal with the country’s oldest rebel group for a transitional period of six months.
However, even with extra sessions being called, Congress was unable to approve more than one tenth of the bills in the first half of the transitional period.
The delays can’t only be blamed on the lawmakers. The government itself admitted Wednesday that it hadn’t formally proposed the opposition statute bill Congress was supposed to vote on. Consequently, the session had to be canceled.
According to Congress President Mauricio Lizcano, this has been pretty much the norm.
“There are weeks in which we don’t move because there are no proposals to study. They announced a tidal wave of initiatives that really have been very few.”
Congress President Mauricio Lizcano
How to screw up a peace process
Congress is not the only government body that is excruciatingly slow in assuring that the FARC peace deal is executed as agreed. The government has yet to finish building the demobilization and disarmament camps for the guerrillas, leaving the demobilized guerrillas living in almost inhumane conditions.
Consequently, reports of armed guerrillas abandoning the process have come from across the country.
Additionally, the military has been “inefficient and too slow” in moving into abandoned FARC territory, which has led to a major public security crises in the vast regions where the FARC’s rule was law.
Oh dear, the 2018 elections
With congressional elections in a year, there is no saying whether Congress will be able to approve the 27 bills necessary for the effective implementation of the peace deal that includes major rural and political reforms.
Possibly because of these pending elections, congressmen have been proposing populist bills rather than debating the peace deal, hoping to show voters their merit in Congress once on campaign.
“The 2018 campaigns could end up being prioritized over the implementation of the deals,” leftist opposition lawmaker Alirio Uribe told El Espectador.
If by June, when the transitional “fast-track” period ends, Congress hasn’t approved the remaining peace bills, these will have to go through Congress the normal way, i.e. even slower than during the fast-track period.
President Juan Manuel Santos has the temporary faculty to decree certain elements of the peace deal, but this is politically risky.
The president is suffering an abysmal approval rating, the peace deal with the FARC enjoys only weak public support and the conservative opposition led by former President Alvaro Uribe has been more than keen to discredit any initiative by Uribe’s arch nemesis Santos.
The congressional chaos adds to the overall chaos in Colombia where, rather than celebrating peace, locals are attending the funerals of assassinated community leaders and victims of turf wars between illegal armed groups trying to take control of FARC territory ahead of the government incursion.
Inspired by a wave of revolutions across Latin America, the FARC had been fighting the state since 1964 in a complex war that left at least 260,0000 dead, 60,000 missing and 7 million Colombians without a home.