Colombia’s Senate began debating a proposed referendum to determine a final peace deal between the government and rebel group, FARC, only to be stopped by two concerned citizens.
Lawyers Ricardo Cifuentes and Eduardo Padilla from law firms City Forum and Red Nacional de Veedurias brought forth a joint challenge to a proposal to hold a referendum for peace concurrently with either a presidential or congressional election due to loss of investiture, conflicts of interest, and having political ties to the president of Colombia reported local media on Tuesday.
The initial proposal which was introduced by the government early last week, would mandate that any final peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC be decided by a popular vote that would be placed on the same ballot as either the upcoming congressional elections in March 2014 or the upcoming presidential elections in May 2014.
Cifuentes and Padilla asserted that the referendum should not be allowed to occur concurrently with either a presidential or a congressional election because of ethical issues.
The two claim that 36 congressmen of the Liberal, Conservative, U, and Radical Change parties who have formed a coalition party should be removed from the debates on the referendum bill due to conflicts of interest that could arise if any of them try to endorse any peace proposal on the day of either election.
Senator Samuel Arrieta of the National Integration Party (PIN), known for its strong ties to politicians convicted for working with death squads, as the president of the Senate Ethics Committee, will take three days to investigate the validity of these challenges, stopping congressional debates temporarily.
Congress received a first draft of the proposal for the rules of the referendum last Wednesday, and the first debates in Congress briefly began yesterday before coming to a halt with this challenge.
Neither Senator Arrieta nor Eduardo Padilla could be reached for comment.