In a surprising move, Colombia’s hard-line former president Alvaro Uribe said Tuesday said he agreed with leftist FARC rebels that an eventual peace deal with the government should be ratified by a constituent assembly.
Avid opponent to the peace talks, now-Senator Uribe has now changed his tone, recognizing the legitimacy of the talks and the importance of the method of ratification of laws once a deal is signed.
Colombia’s government has proposed a constitutional reform to create a legislative commission, or “mini-Congress,” and grant President Juan Manuel Santos extended powers to implement a possible peace deal with the FARC guerrillas into law.
The FARC has insisted that a constituent assembly made up of representatives from all sectors of society would be a preferable way to implement the peace deal.
The “mini-Congress” proposed would have been made up of congressmen, scholars, and other representatives of society. However this aroused concerns that FARC members would be able to join.
Senator Armando Benedetti, as a result altered the definition of the “mini-Congress,” removing any non-congress persons, in effect creating the polar opposite of the more inclusive option Uribe and the FARC are asking for.
Such a creation would be preferable to President Santos as means of efficiently passing necessary laws after the agreement, without having go through the process of calling a constituent assembly or risk a corruption of the deal in congress.
Santos predecessor concurred, “I’d rather take the risk of amendments to the Constitution through a constitution assembly, than through a Congress that was not elected for that.”
The Democratic Center, Uribe’s opposition party, has furthermore described the constitutional reform as “a blow from the state against the population and democracy.”
According to Uribe and his allies, Santos’ proposal for a reduced congress and amplified presidential powers would set a “dangerous precedent” and threaten “constitutional stability.”
Uribe’s new level of participation marks major steps for the former president and his party in support of the peace talks, a process he has consistently and fiercely opposed.
The country’s Interior Minister, Juan Fernando Cristo, applauded the senator for his change in tone and attitude towards the implementation of the peace agreement.
“The government expresses its satisfaction with the intervention of Senator Uribe, it is constructive and the Government is ready to evaluate the proposals of the Democratic Center. It is good to establish this dialogue,” said Cristo.
During his political reign between 2002 and 2010, Uribe led a mighty offensive against the guerrillas. In recent times the former-president has however found himself politically marginalized, with a number of his allies found to have ties to anti-guerrilla paramilitary groups and corrupt politics.
As a staunch opposer of the process he has accused his successor Juan Manuel Santos of “legitimizing terrorists” and “handing over the country” to rebel group FARC.
The Senate will have to vote a number of times on the bill debated Tuesday before it is made law.