Colombia’s justice minister resigned Friday after President Juan Manuel Santos‘ refusal to ratify a highly controversial judicial reform promoted by the minister in Congress on behalf of the government.
Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra said in a press conference that he had presented his “irrevocable” resignation to Santos the night before.
In the press statement, the outgoing minister blasted congress for making controversial last-minute changes to the already highly controversial constitutional reform.
While denying responsibility in the controversial adaptations of the reform that forced the President to return the bill to Congress, Esguerra said “it is very clear to me that as a government official I carry political responsibility. … I must take this political responsibility.”
Santos said on his website he regrets the resignation of Esguerra and will take his time to decide whether to accept his Minister’s resignation.
“Minister Esguerra is a great human being, a great official, a great jurist and a great minister. I believe it will be difficult to find a person with his qualities,” the president said.
The judicial reform encountered resistance from human rights organizations, the judicial branch and electoral observers since it was introduced by the government.
The government’s initial draft included the return of human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the military to military tribunals who had been taken off these cases by Santos’ predecessor Alvaro Uribe because of their failing to punish perpetrators of human rights violations. This clause was removed after international pressure.
The remaining reform was rejected by the judicial branch, that boycotted taking part in talks about the reform. Colombia’s opposition party Polo Democratico considered the constitutional amendment a “fatal kick for the constitution.”
Senate President Juan Manuel Corzo, who was part of the congressional commission that included the last-minute clauses that would benefit legislators under criminal investigation, will not sign the final draft of the bill to avoid the rejected constitutional reform be made public.