Referendum Plan Sets Off Furor in Colombia 

Referendum Plan Sets Off Furor in Colombia 
Posted by FoM on April 08, 2000 at 07:33:24 PT
By Steven Dudley, Special to The Washington Post
Source: Washington Post
A campaign by President Andres Pastrana for a national referendum on anti-corruption measures--which also would dissolve Congress--has bitterly divided Colombia's political establishment and put at risk a $2.7 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund.
The president called for the referendum last week after the speaker of the House and several other top members of Congress resigned amid allegations they had taken kickbacks from businesses involved in about 60 bloated public works contracts. The vote would ask approval of stiffer penalties for corruption, including barring convicted officials from office. It also could lead to dissolution of Congress followed by elections for a smaller, and presumably less corrupt, legislative body this fall."This is a type of sophism, a distraction that they wanted to present to the country that is definitely designed to cover the deficiencies of this government," said Sen. Aurelio Iragorri of the opposition Liberal Party."We are just presenting a referendum," the embattled president replied today. "If Congress doesn't want it, let it go ahead anyway, and the people will vote no."The political stalemate comes at a sensitive time in Colombia's attempt to deal with a strong leftist guerrilla movement and, at the same time, combat the drug traffickers who have made this nation the leading cocaine supplier to users in the United States.Pastrana is scheduled to be in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with U.S. congressmen and State Department officials about his $7.5 billion Plan Colombia, a project to fight drugs and shore up the ailing economy. The U.S. Senate is debating an emergency appropriations bill this month that includes a $1.6 billion package for Pastrana's beleaguered government.The president's referendum proposal and the firestorm it has generated are likely to freeze government attempts to impose austerity measures in conformity with a $2.7 billion loan agreement made with the IMF in December, and thus may lead the fund to rethink the loan.To meet loan requirements, the government must restructure its tax system and privatize several state entities, including the coal company and several electricity assets. But given the political atmosphere, Colombia's Congress will most likely block these measures, forcing the Finance Ministry to renegotiate the loan agreement.Pastrana's Grand Alliance--a coalition of the president's Conservative Party and some Liberal Party members--is divided on the referendum. And some legislators who do not belong to the alliance are calling for a constitutional assembly instead.The assembly would include 70 elected representatives and 30 representatives of left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitary groups--the two dominant illegal groups involved in this country's 35-year civil war. Liberal Party members said they will present the idea to Congress Tuesday, the same day the president's referendum proposal is scheduled before the legislature.But the Pastrana administration rejected the proposal for a constitutional assembly and vehemently opposed the idea of inviting the rebels to participate."This wouldn't be a constitutional assembly but rather an armed assembly," Interior Minister Nestor Humberto Martinez said. "To go and give the guerrillas these opportunities when they haven't given anything for peace would be the hara-kiri of this democracy." By Steven DudleySpecial to The Washington PostSaturday , April 8, 2000 ; A12 BOGOTA, Colombia, April 7  2000 The Washington Post Company Related Articles:Dead, I Can't Do Anything're Targeting A Colombia We Don't Understand Other Drug War - Newsweek Money - Arianna Huffington Articles On Colombia Over 200 Items: 
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Comment #1 posted by dddd on April 09, 2000 at 20:18:53 PT
This article is good,in that it gives an insight into world of big money.It also lets us catch a glimpse of the instability of the flimsy,and questionable governing powers in Columbia. This also raises the question;If the IMF is considering loaning some 2.7 Billion dollars to this puppetlike government,that is obviously represenative of a limited minority of the population,then why are we thinking of GIVING them 1.7 Billion of our tax money. Come to think of it,I guess we could say that we have a puppetlike government,that represents a limited minority,which mainly cosists of big money interests........oh well....................never mind.................dddd
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