Future relations between Colombia’s incoming executive and judicial branches are off to a good start, with President-elect Juan Manuel Santos meeting top judges and promising to respect the autonomy of the courts.
The president of Colombia’s Supreme Court, Jaime Arrubla, said the meeting had been very constructive, and that Santos, who the judge considers an old friend, had instigated a good dialogue with the country’s judicial branch.
Arrubla said controversial issues such as the election of the national prosecutor general and Colombia’s extradition treaty with the U.S. were not touched upon. Instead the meeting focused on how to restore harmony between the executive and the judiciary.
State Council President Fernando Alvarez told Caracol Radio that the principle achievement of the meeting had been Santos’ commitment to consult the judicial branch about any potential reforms.
Superior Council Judge Francisco Escobar said that the dialogue with Santos was a positive step towards improving relations between the two warring institutions.
According to Caracol Radio, the courts and the president-elect agreed that reopening Colombia’s Ministry of Justice must be one of the first initiatives on Santos’ agenda when he assumes the presidency on August 7.
Following the meeting, Santos spoke of his respect for the courts and said he hoped this was the beginning of a constructive dialogue between his incoming administration and the judiciary.
Executive-judiciary relations have become increasingly strained under outgoing President Alvaro Uribe‘s administration, with the Colombian leader lashing out at decisions made by the courts, causing the Supreme Court to cancel a scheduled meeting with the president.
In his acceptance speech following his election to the presidency Sunday evening, Santos said that the current “train crash” between the executive and the judiciary is “unhealthy” and promised to restore harmony between the branches of government.
However while Santos seeks harmony with the courts, Uribe continues to clash with them, calling for an immediate “purge” of the judicial branch.
“Just as we have not hesitated to purge the armed forces to avoid criminal penetration, I believe that there needs to be a purging of the justice system, judges, prosecutors in order to avoid criminal penetration,” Uribe said.
The outgoing president said he found it grave and worrying that that the courts allow highly dangerous criminals to go free and questioned the judiciary’s diligence in combating drug trafficking.