Colombia’s Congress will consider a bill that would significantly expand penalties for political parties whose congressmen find themselves convicted of crimes, according to reports from La Semana.
The statutes, referred to as the “empty seat” laws, currently prevent political parties from replacing elected officials within their organizations who have been convicted of drug trafficking, ties to illegal armed groups or crimes against humanity.
The new proposal being spearheaded by Senators Juan Valdes and Marco Avirama from the Indigenous Social Alliance party would apply the same punishments to political parties whose members are guilty of corruption, or crimes that involve mismanaging public funds.
The need for such a measure arose, at least in part, from a scandal in the Bogota City Council, in which various councilmen were removed from office for corrupting the city’s contracting process, but were replaced by their political parties.
Should it become law, the bill would cover the entire spectrum of the political hierarchy in Colombia, including congressmen, council members, delegates, town councilmen, mayors and governors.
“Senator Lozana was going to present an initiative in the same vein but he has told us he will abstain and instead join onto ours,” said senator Avirama on Wednesday. “Various representatives support us because this responsibility cannot be avoided: politicians need to know what class of people accompanies them and what sorts of deals they made to get to power.”
The bill, which has a wide consensus among lawmakers, is expected to be debated soon in the main committee of the Senate.
- ‘Silla Vacia’ tambien para corruptos (La Semana)