Colombia’s vice president supports amending the country’s constitution, ignoring objections by President Juan Manuel Santos, claimed Senator Juan Carlos Velez Tuesday.
Senator Velez, a member of the liberal conservative U Party and a staunch supporter of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, claimed Vice President Angelino Garzon called him to voice his desire to pass of a controversial justice reform bill through the national constituent assembly.
The government-proposed reform of Colombia’s clogged judicial system passed in June through a congressional vote before being scrapped weeks later. The bill included a series of tenuous last-minute amendments introduced during a closed-door committee that critics said would give impunity to public officials and Santos said would create “institutional and judicial chaos.”
There are only three ways the country’s constitution can be amended: through a congressional vote, through a referendum or through the approval of the Constituent Assembly of Colombia.
The constituent assembly is a committee of delegates, typically made up of politicians and community leaders, chosen by the Colombian electorate, charged with overseeing a potential constitutional change. A majority decision must be reached before an amendment can be made.
A national constituent assembly has not been convoked since 1991, when Colombia’s current constitution was passed.
If Velez’s assertions are proved correct, Garzon’s support of a constituent assembly may indicate a significant rift within the executive branch. On July 20, Santos himself regarded further attempts to change the constitution as, “inconvenient and dangerous(…) we know where they start but not where they end”.
The Santos administration’s attempt to pass the justice reform bill through congress caused major embarrassment for the government and strained the relations between the executive and the legislature.
The failed reform seemed to have damaged the president’s popularity among Colombians, as demonstrated by his declining approval ratings.
Garzon only recently reported back to work after spending several weeks in intensive care recovering from a stroke he suffered in June.