Frictions began to emerge after leading Conservative politicians expressed their reservations over a proposed bill to grant the government special powers over the next six months to divide three government ministries and restructure some state agencies, W Radio reported Thursday.
In the meeting set for Monday, the Conservative Party will express their concerns personally to Santos, particularly the wish to avoid a “labor massacre” in the restructuring of the DAS and Colombia’s drug enforcement agency, the DNE.
Although Minister for the Interior and Justice German Vargas Lleras will be present at the meeting, a request for his presence has not been forthcoming from the Conservatives.
Vargas is currently in the process of investigating politicians, some of whom are Conservative members, who are accused of being involved in a corruption scandal over the management of assets seized from drug traffickers and mis-administered by the DNE.
In addition, a member of Congress who spoke to El Tiempo on the condition of anonymity said that many in the Conservative Party are upset by the way Vargas “did a sweep” of Conservatives within his own ministry and Colombia’s prison authority INPEC.
As a result, the political gulf over the bill is beginning to be viewed by some as a personal attack against Vargas in order to restrict his work.
Liberal Senator Juan Fernando Cristo stated, “It is a conspiracy against the Minister of the Interior and, ultimately, against the government.”
Conservative Party Chairman Jose Dario Salazar however has denied that his party has an ulterior motive in delaying the bill and told RCN Radio that the Conservatives have never sought to attack a minister.
The Conservative Party currently comprise 20% of the Senate and 22% of the House of Representatives so an abstention from a vote on the bill, or worse, a “no” vote could potentially be very damaging to the National Unity coalition.
The Conservative Party are not alone in their reservations over the bill as other parties in the coalition criticized the lack of clarity in the bill in Congress on Wednesday. Some members of Congress are also worried that it could grant the executive too much power.
The debate between all parties is set to continue prior to a vote.