Legislative efforts to shore up the peace process in Colombia by providing victims with congressional seats have failed, the senate president has confirmed.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had last week confirmed the ratification of reserved congressional seats for conflict areas, arguing that a 50-vote approval constituted an electoral majority because three senators are in prison, reducing the total senators from 102 to 99.
But late Wednesday, Senate President Efraín Cepeda said the government’s position was "inappropriate" and confirmed that the bill providing 16 seats intended for victims of the 52-year armed conflict has now been vetoed, El Tiempo reports.
Cepeda said the government’s argument concerning the presence of only 99 senators was not valid, and that the final vote of 50 fell short of the required 51. "The draft legislative acts will be approved by an absolute majority," he said.
To date, only two elements of the relevant legislation have been formally approved: judicial protection for the peace process, and special jurisdiction for peace. Ten bills have yet to appear on the congressional agenda.
Together, the bills would provide as many as eight million victims and 16 regions and with extra representation, regions which have long been neglected by the government and continue to reel from drug-fuelled violence.
Conservative and hard-right parties, however, have opposed the bills, claiming they could open Congress to crime groups or the FARC political party, which secured that bills as part of its transition to the political arena.