President Ivan Duque plunged Colombia into chaos on Wednesday after an unlawful attempt to usurp powers of local and regional authorities.
Duque issued a national emergency decree on Tuesday that gave his cabinet extraordinary powers to confront the corona virus pandemic.
Duque’s unconstitutional power grab
Within 24 hours the president issued a decree in which he illegally revoked curfews that had been issued by mayors and governors in their attempt to curb the spreading of the virus.
The so-called Social and Economic Emergency issued by Duque on Tuesday allows the president to issue decrees if they count on “the signature of all ministers.”
Duque’s decree was only signed by himself, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and Interior Minister Alicia Arango, giving it the legal validity of monopoly money.
Mayors and Governors: You may continue with your isolation decrees… I have just verified that decree 418 is not a decree that can be enforced by law… It does not have the signature of all the ministers.
Senator Roy Barreras (U Party)
A night of chaos
The president’s unlawful attempt to usurp local and regional authorities’ powers triggered chaos and a new round of calls for the resignation of the unpopular and notoriously inept Duque.
Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said she would continue organizing a four-day shutdown drill she was organizing for Friday. Governors and even mayors of the president’s own Democratic Center party said they would not play along with Duque’s attempted power grab.
Residents of Bogota and other cities spontaneously responded by banging their pots and pans in protest while others took to social media to call for civil disobedience.
When the people feel that the reason that guides you in the exercise of your public functions does not correspond to the convenience of the common good, the raison d’être of your mandate, which is popular, is extinguished and you become redundant.
Opposition Senator Ivan Marulanda
A failed coup or just another political suicide attempt?
Arango and Trujillo took to the press to explain Duque’s unlawful decree in the company of the military command, giving the attempted power grab the appearance of a coup.
The push-back of both authorities and citizens was such that the president’s latest violation of the constitution ended up appearing Duque’s latest political suicide attempt.
More than half of Colombia’s governors and a number of mayors had issued curfews or decreed other measures because of the national government’s perceived slow response to the pandemic that could collapse the country’s healthcare system.
I would rather go to jail than see my parents, my daughter Guadalupe who is on her way, my wife and the people of my town die.
La Ceja Mayor Nelson Carmona
While Duque was implementing economic measures that would benefit his financial patrons, regional and local authorities took to implementing measures that sought to save lives.
The president’s legitimacy was already in question over Duque’s alleged involvement in rigging the 2018 elections.
After Wednesday’s attempted power grab, Duque’s authority as president is not even recognized by members of his own party.
The national emergency that allows the cabinet to issue decrees is valid for three weeks and can only be extended with the approval of Congress.