Transparency International said Wednesday it is “deeply concerned” about recent power grabs of Colombia’s increasingly authoritarian President Ivan Duque.
According to the international NGO, “the growing concentration of power in the President” constitute a “detriment of civil liberties and other branches of power.”
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Duque called three subsequent states of emergency allowing the government to bypass congress and remove local government’s powers.
The recent elections of presidential allies as Inspector General and Ombudsman have brought all institutional watchdogs within the sphere of influence of the Duque administration.
The Supreme Court in January elected one of the president’s best friends, Francisco Barbosa, Prosecutor General while one of Barbosa’s best friends, Felipe Cordoba, was elected Comptroller General in 2018 already, which “carries a serious risk of reducing the independence that these external bodies should have vis-à-vis the executive branch,” according to Transparency International.”
“Likewise, local decentralized authorities have become weaker in relation to the central government, and there have been questionable government actions” over the spying on journalists and critics “that affect freedom of expression, citizen participation and access to public information.”
During the pandemic, there has been a trend of increasing authority in the executive branch in many countries. However, we are deeply concerned that the system of checks and balances in Colombia has also been affected by questions over the independence of institutions that must monitor and control the President.
Transparency International chief Delia Ferreira
Duque’s increasing proximity to traditional parties in Congress further put “the stability and independence of the accountability system in our country is at risk” according to Transparencia por Colombia director Andres Hernandez.
Transparency has become particularly a concern over mounting reports of widespread corruption with funds meant to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the director of the Colombian chapter of Transparency International.
During the response to the pandemic, irregularities in the use of public resources have already been evident, and questionable decisions have been made regarding direct aid to large companies. Weak and un-independent institutions can facilitate decisions that favor particular interests.
Transparencia por Colombia director Andres Hernandez
Transparency International’s local chapter said it will “increase its monitoring of accountability institutions and the preservation of the separation of powers, by incorporating international experience and strengthening alliances aimed at generating structural solutions.”
Duque, a disciple of far-right former President Alvaro Uribe, blatantly violated human rights during anti-government protests late last year and attacked the Supreme Court after it placed his political patron under house arrest last month.
The president, his party and Uribe are being investigated for conspiring with drug traffickers to rig the 2018 elections, while Duque’s political patron is under investigation over his alleged role in three massacres and a homicide.