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House postpones referendum vote until Tuesday

posted by Adriaan Alsema

Colombia news - Uribe Moreno

After two days of debating, Colombia’s House of Representatives
Wednesday was still not able to vote on the referendum on President
Alvaro Uribe’s possibility to seek a third term in 2010. The
impediments of coalition lawmakers blocked the actual vote and the
session was postponed until Tuesday.

House President Edgar Gomez Roman suspended the second session just before midnight Wednesday after the House had spent the previous seven and a half hours dismissing the impediments of mostly coalition lawmakers who massively claimed to be impeded by a preliminary Supreme Court investigation into their possibly illegal approval of the five million votes that were gathered to demand the referendum.

The bill was expected to be voted on Monday, but was held back when 106 of the 166 Representatives said to be impeded. Only ten of these impediments could be dealt with in the first session and even after the second session some 40 impediments were still to be voted on.

While the lawmakers were dismissing their own impediments, high government and coalition party officials continued lobbying Representatives whose vote was still insecure.

A photographer of newspaper El Espectador was able to capture a conversation between former minister Andres Felipe Arias, who was present in the House, and Bernardo Moreno, the personal secretary of the President. In the conversation Moreno said he “will have to resort to shady strategies for Uribe.”

Moreno is suspected of involvement in the bribery of two convicted Congressmen to secure the 2006 re-election of Uribe.

According to Caracol Radio, Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio urged the House President to continue the session until all impediments were voted on, but Gomez Roman argued the lawmakers were exhausted and needed to return to their districts for their personal election campaigns.

The referendum bill is surrounded by scandals and the opposition accuses the coalition of fraud, unconstitutional actions and bribery.

The gathering of votes calling for the referendum violated financial regulation, which led to a criminal complaint by an opposition lawmaker after his colleagues approved the referendum. Because of the initial formulation the referendum would allow Uribe to run for re-election, but not until 2014. The text was altered by the Senate to allow Uribe to be re-elected in 2010.

Presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, Rafael Pardo, accuses Senators of having been able to enrich themselves with government funds after their approval and another presidential candidate, German Vargas Lleras of Cambio Radical, said government institutions have offered well-paid positions to Representatives if they approved the bill.

President Uribe himself has not yet explicitly expressed if he aspires to run in May 2010 for his third term.

About the author

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Adriaan Alsema is the founder and editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports. Born and raised a Dutchman, Adriaan has been living in Colombia since 2008.

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