Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for crisis talks between Congress and the Judiciary on Thursday, following a dispute between the governmental branches concerning impending balance of power reforms.
The Judiciary’s Interagency Committee requested Wednesday the abolition of the balance of power reforms ongoing debate in Congress, instead calling for the creation of a National Constituent Assembly.
Constitutional Court magistrates, additionally threatened to sink the entire reform, claiming there are serious procedural flaws in the reform that among other things seeks the creation a “supercourt” that would rule over crimes allegedly committed by members of the country’s highest courts.
Congress coalition barks back
Congress flatly rejected the possibility, with various congressmen warning that there is no chance for the initiative to take root due to the pending reforms.
Santos ordered Ministers of the Presidency Nestor Humberto Martinez, Interior Juan Fernando Cristo, and Justice Yesid Reyes to establish a channel of dialogue to address the issues that are creating division and putting the reform developments at risk of collapse.
“I hope these dialogues between the courts and Congress happen as soon as possible,” said Santos in a statement from the Presidential Palace on Thursday.
The president emphasized that the intention is that “to achieve in the end the best possible reform.”
“We knew from the beginning that this was not the major reform, as we said, but they are steps in the right direction,” affirmed Santos.
Colombia’s justice system has been exposed as vastly corrupt in recent months, with almost all of the country’s top courts — and the prosecutor general — under fire about their integrity after a series of corruption allegations.
The government hopes that the extensive set of alterations in development in Congress will fix several glaring flaws within the justice system, and subsequently reduce the levels of corruption and unjust practice.
Coalition U Party Senator Armando Benedetti said that all judicial officials have had sufficient opportunities to discuss and make proposals on the main points of the balance of powers reforms.
“Of course we are not going to sink the reform,” Benedetti stated.
“I am quite surprised, because I do not understand how one branch of government tells another that it does not have the power to make a reform that has been made with the utmost transparency,” said the senator.
The chairman of the First Committee of the Senate, coalition Senator Juan Manuel Galan (Liberal Party), said that a Constituent Assembly is not suitable for Colombia.
“The Constituent Assembly is a leap of faith for the country and in this moment, when we are in the most difficult phase of the peace process, it is inappropriate to talk about such a thing,” said Galan.
“For now I believe that the reform can be processed in Congress,” added the Liberal senator.
Opposition in tune with coalition
Senator Claudia Lopez of the opposition Green Party insisted that the balance reforms are necessary for the country in order to end the malfunctioning of the judicial branch.
“Rather than calling for a Constituent Assembly that makes no sense, it is better that we wait in Congress with much respect and enthusiasm, to be told specifically how we can improve the reform to end impunity for those that enjoy it and to have a more efficient administration of justice in a new system of judicial government,” said Lopez, a long-time political scientist and anti-corruption activist.
Conservative Senator Hernan Andrade, also from the opposition, said that there is no justification for the judicial branch’s Constituent Assembly request.
“It is disproportionate and inappropriate to ask for the sinking of this project, that we have worked on and considered” said Serrano, adding that “we are sure that it responds to the requirements of the judiciary and of Colombian society.”
The balance of power reforms are due to open for the seventh of eight debates next week.