Colombia’s congress approved a law that judicially shields a pending peace deal with rebels group FARC from possible changes by later administrations. Opponents of the talks are furious.
The ratified law, proposed by the peace negotiators and guarantor nations, will judicially shield a peace deal from alterations by future administrations while also elevating it to the status of a Special Agreement, ensuring its compliance with international humanitarian law.
The law will now be sent off to a bi-chamber reconciliation committee, President Juan Manuel Santos and the Constitutional Court for further ratification.
The law includes a temporary amplification of the executive power for six months, with the option of a further six months, in case the post-conflict peace process takes longer than planned.
One part of the amplification of executive power will reduce the number of debates necessary for the approval of laws that will require changing as a result of the peace deal with the FARC, led by senior guerrilla “Timochenko.”
The second is that it will allow the president to forcibly expedite decrees to implement measures that are derived from the agreements without congressional approval.
However, Santos will therefore not have the power to expedite constitutional reforms, statutory or organic laws, nor tax impositions.
The legislative act has caused much controversy among the conservative political minority opposing the peace talks and the pending deal.
Moments after the approval, former President Alvaro Uribe and his party, the Democratic Center, condemned it as a “coup d’état against Colombian democracy” that would hand the country over to the FARC rebels.
The Democratic Center senator Alvaro Hernan Prada went as far as accusing Santos of being a member of the FARC, while admitting “it was very well camouflaged.”
However, as Santos paints it, the FARC have agreed to submit themselves to the constitution and its laws, but they needed the extra security of knowing that they would be protected from any U-turns by subsequent governments.
Santos is referring to the agreements made between Uribe’s government and the AUC prior to their demobilisation that were subsequently struck down by the Constitutional Court as being unconstitutional.
“What will happen is nothing other than the participation of all aspects and controls of our democracy. It will be the people, the Congress and the Constitutional Court who give it validity, substance and sustainability… That is why it is absurd to talk of a coup d’état, or how we are delivering the country to FARC when it is the opposite: FARC are submitting to our Constitution and our laws.”
President Juan Manuel Santos
Apart from the Democratic Center, Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez has also come out with a more considered argument against the legislative act.
According to the inspector general, the law in effect grants “the negotiation table in Havana unlimited power to change the constitution.”
“Timochenko and President Santos will be able to redact the constitution as they wish, by including the Final Accord – which in the strict sense still doesn’t exist – in the constitutional block.”
Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez
Ordoñez also noted that Santos’ argument for the legitimacy of this act rests on his assertion that the public will have the final say on the agreements of the peace treaty.
The inspector general argued that this is disingenuous, saying that once the treaty is signed and comes before the United Nations and the Swiss state the result of the plebiscite will have no effect.
“It is a shameless lie to say that the people will have the final word.”
Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez
Nonetheless, the act was passed on Wednesday with 91 votes for and 17 against.
After three and a half years of negotiations, the Santos administration and the FARC leadership are as close as they have ever been to ending a conflict that has lasted more than half a century, cost more than 260,000 lives and displaced more than 13% of Colombia’s total population.