[Marxism] Re-electionist referendum: The turning point for Colombia

nchamah miller nchamah at gmail.com
Sun Apr 5 17:05:18 MDT 2009

Re-electionist referendum: The turning point for Colombia

Sebastian Castaneda
Friday 3 April 2009

It is widely conceived that Uribe has split Colombia's history in two.
His supporters, on the one hand, mention the weakening of the FARC,
the demobilization of the right-wing paramilitaries and the
revitalized foreign investment confidence. Uribe's detractors, on the
other hand, point out at the human rights violations in combating the
FARC, the leniency on the paramilitaries and the failure of his
trickle-down economics to benefit the poorest in society. However, the
real reason Uribe has split Colombia's history in two is due to the
damage done to democracy that would be be further aggravated if a
second re-election is successful.

Uribe accomplished the first re-election in congress thanks to a
congresswoman acceptance to change her vote in return for some
lucrative public office seats and a congressman who was allegedly paid
off to miss the voting. In the end the Constitutional Court ruled that
one immediate re-election would not undermine the crucial check and
balances characteristic of strong democracies.

Currently, a new re-election attempt is being promoted through a
referendum, which would circumvent the Constitutional Court's
provision after approving the first re-election. Once again there are
various allegations of fraud in the collection of signatures for the
legislation of the referendum. First, the financing surpassed the
ceiling permitted by law. Second, dirty money may have financed it.
Third, there are allegations that the National Registry leaked
information to the collectors of signatures. More than the popular
support this new re-election attempt illustrates the powerful and
shadowy economic interests at work.

Different sectors in civil society openly oppose a second re-election,
including the church - somewhat paradoxical when the church's system
is based on a similar authoritative structure. Some congressmen are
reluctant to openly oppose the referendum due to repercussions in
their constituencies. Some others have denounced the fraud, however,
their denouncements before the Prosecutor General and the Inspector
General offices may be futile. The PG has delayed and changed the
prosecutor in charge of investigating the fraud allegations and the IG
has demonstrated his bias tracked record towards the government.

These new developments may not impede the approval of a national
referendum in congress. Even if congress changes the wording so Uribe
can run in 2010, instead of 2014 as the wording that people signed
stipulated, the Constitutional Court, which now has a pro-Uribe stance
after he appointed three new judges, may deem the referendum
constitutional. Nonetheless, all these allegations do have some
repercussion in the population and the seven million signatures needed
for the approval of the constitutional amendment may not be reached.
It can be expected the president, with his well oiled machinery, to
govern around raising public support for the referendum with populist
policies such as the 'personal dose' criminalization. The main
strategy, however, would be to intensify militarily operations against
the FARC as has just been announced. This, after all, is the reason
for his popularity. However, the FARC's deliberate-timed calls for a
humanitarian exchange, without demanding a demilitarized zone, may try
to undermine public support for Uribe's war policies. As was to be
expected, Uribe rejected the offer until the FARC cease their
terrorist attacks. Even if the attacks are stopped the government
would continue hastily blaming the FARC for any incident as the Meta
water supply bombs exemplified.

If the legislation for the re-electionist referendum is approved in
congress it would signify the Constitutional Court assumptions of one
re-election not disrupting the check and balances of Colombian
democracy to be utterly mistaken. Another re-election would only
result in a escalation on the sabotage to democracy and probably the
rule of law unless citizens understand what is at stake.



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