All candidates for the 2010 presidential election reject thegovernment’s proposal to grant parliamentary immunity to members ofColombia’s Congress.
Not one of the presidential hopefuls consulted by Caracol Radio was positive about the proposal of Interior and Justcie Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio to let Congress approve of investigations into its members before aloowing theSupreme Court to formally start an investigation and suspendthe lawmaker.
According to former Prosecutor General and current presidential candidate Alfonso Gomez Mendez, the idea makes no sense and described the proposal as belonging to the 19th century. Gomez Mendez says the bill can not be justified now that so many Congressmen are being investigated for crimes.
Liberal Party pre-candidate Rafael Pardo told the radio station the government is trying to suck up to Congress so it solves the problems around the referendum needed for the re-election of President Alvaro Uribe. Pardo says that it was the parliamentary immunity that excisted in the constitution before the renewal in 1991 that was used by slain drug lord Pablo Escobar to avoid prosecution.
According to Social Democrat Gustavo Petro, Escobar was the only one ever to benefit from a parliamentary immunity.
Andres Felipe Arias, until recently Minister under Uribe and currently a pre-candidate for the Conservative Party, states “this is not the time to propose plans like this one,” adding that a parliamentary immunity would only worsen the relations with the Supreme Court that is in charge of investigations into federal lawmakers”.
Uribista candidate and former Defense minister Martha Lucia Ramirez described the proposal as “misleading and wrong” and former Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo Monday accused the government of seeking parliamentary impunity.
According to Caracol Radio, 40 percent of Colombia’s senators issubject to a criminal investigation, while more than 100 of thecountry’s 166 Representatives are being investigated for some kind ofcrime.