A regular pattern in Latin America: Leader comes to power through elections, changes the country’s Constitution (which they regard as a pliable ‘living’ thing) to consolidate power around themselves, thereby screwing up the country.
For a brief moment, I hoped Colombia would prove to be an exception.
Man, was I wrong!
Mary O’Grady writes about Santos’s Power Grab in the Name of Peace. The Colombian leader, using the Hugo Chávez playbook, wants a constitutional rewrite (emphasis added),
Hugo Chávez destroyed political pluralism in Venezuela by consolidating power in the executive. Now Colombia’s PresidentJuan Manuel Santos wants to copy the Bolivarian strongman. He’s asking Congress for the power to rule by decree for six months and for a blank check to amend the constitution in ways he has not spelled out. Since Mr. Santos’s Liberal Party controls Congress, he is expected to prevail.
Mr. Santos wants this authoritarian power so he can unilaterally change the constitution to include the terms of a “peace” accord he has been secretly negotiating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for almost five years. He initially promised a referendum on the final agreement so Colombians could vote point-by-point on its particulars, such as whether guerrilla felons should be able to run for office. But he went back on that promise—and many others—a long time ago.
Mr. Santos now proposes a simple up-or-down vote on the end product, which is still not available. His government has poured billions of taxpayer pesos (millions of dollars) into a publicity campaign to convince the electorate that voting no is the same as voting for war.
Mr. Santos also got Congress to agree to lower the constitutionally mandated minimum turnout for his plebiscite to 13% of the electorate, from 50% plus one. Last week the Liberal Party proposed that Colombians as young as 14 should be permitted to cast a symbolic vote in the plebiscite. If the vote is close, presumably Mr. Santos will use the opinions of high-school freshmen to prove the wisdom of his deal.
If this goes through, it will be a disaster for not only Colombia, but the whole Hemisphere.
Among Santos’s proposals is placing unelected FARC leaders in Congress. This means that officials from the largest narco-terrorist organization (allegedly involved with al-Qaeda in the European drug trade) in the world would be in the legislative body of Latin America’s fourth-largest economy.
Additionally,as part of the ugly deal, the FARC would take part in nominating judges to one of the special congressional tribunals that would try the FARC.
Santos has included the ELN in the peace talks, too. How’s that working out so far?
Catatumbo is an area largely controlled by the guerrillas of the FARC, ELN and EPL. The government is currently holding peace talks with the FARC and the ELN. El Mundo says that Hernández-Mora was in an area controlled by the ELN.
Hernández-Mora, who has been reporting from Colombia since 1999, is a long-standing critic of the peace process with the FARC and ELN. In a report tweeted on Friday evening, she said local people had held a strike to protest the disappearance of two children and that she could not leave the area.
— Pilica (@Pilica7) May 22, 2016
Santos’s approval rating is 21%. His Liberal Party controls Congress.