Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made his first attempt his first public attempt to re-establish confidence between government and lawmakers Friday at the inauguration of a new legislative year.
The relations between the Santos administration and Congress reached a record low just before summer recess when a widely criticized government-proposed reform of Colombia’s clogged justice system failed after Congress included highly-controversial amendments shielding congressmen from criminal investigations.
The failed justice reform caused friction between Colombia’s executive and legislative branch as government and Congress blamed each other for both the controversial amendments to the bill and the failing of the project as a whole.
In his traditional Independence Day speech before Congress, Santos called on Congress to unite.
“Let’s show those who want to see us divided that we continue united and that, when we are united, nobody can stop Colombia,” the president said.
The failed justice reform had pushed Congress already-low approval rating to a record low and also hurt the president’s popularity among Colombians.
While admitting that the weeks following the reform debacle “have not been easy for the country”, the scandal should not “tarnish” Congress’ “magnificent” work over the past legislative year, Santos added.
The president can count on the support of a coalition holding 85% of the seats in Congress. However, his “coalition of national unity” has come under pressure after former President Alvaro Uribe started flirting with the Conservative Party and U Party benches to join his opposition to Santos’ policies.