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Colombia’s senate rejects congressional seats for victims

Efrain Cepeda (Image credit: Zona Cero)

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday he will ask the court to reject a senate decision to sink the reservation of 16 congressional seats for victims.

Senate President Efrain Cepeda (Conservative Party) announced earlier that he would uphold a rejection of the victims’ seats that was part of a peace process with Marxist FARC guerrillas.

The bill was denied after it obtained 50 votes in the 102-seat chamber.

Colombia’s congress in chaos over peace process

President Juan Manuel Santos claimed the bill was effectively approved by a majority because three senators left their seats vacant after being jailed.

The political participation for victims was the only part of a major political reform agreed with the FARC and the UN that had survived Congress until its final vote.

We will continue fighting for the approval of this bill for the victims, and because it is one of the commitments we made at the negotiations table.

President Juan Manuel Santos

The victims have the right to be heard for a short time, the victims were the ones who suffered most from this armed conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos

Cepeda defended his decision to stick to his initial rejecting of the bill that bans the inclusion of war-torn region to Congress.

An absolute majority means that a decision is adopted by the majority of the members’ votes, which in this case would be the majority of 102 senators.

Efrain Cepeda via El Espectador

While meant for victims, conservative parties have argued that the transitional seats could end up in the hands of criminal groups or even the FARC, the former guerrilla group that became a political party in August.

Hard-line former President Alvaro Uribe, an opponent of the peace process, said the seats were “for the FARC.”

Victim representatives who wanted to run for one of the transitional seats had urged to stop associating them with guerrillas or drug trafficking groups.

We are not guerrillas. We are victims and peace builders, we are the ones who have endured death and sorrow, forgiveness and reconciliation. We have the right to elect and be elected and the Government has a duty to respect our rights. Stop stigmatizing us, stop re-victimizing us!

Journalist Soraya Bayuelo

Whether the court will be on time to rule on the controversy on time for the next elections is uncertain.

Electoral authorities are preparing congressional elections in March and would have to include the reserved positions on the ballot in the designated regions.

The peace process that began in December last year seeks to end more than half a century of armed conflict that killed more than 265,000 Colombians and displaced more than 7 million.

Colombia’s senate rejects congressional seats for victims was last modified: December 7th, 2017 by
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