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Colombia: The Laws At The Verge of Being Passed

Some Issues Are Still Being Discussed in Congress.

Top view of the plenary session of the Senate of Colombia

A few days after the end of the legislative period, various important issues are debated in the Colombian Congress. Photo: TW-SecreSenado

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Colombia: Los temas que presionan en el cierre de la legislatura

A few days before the end of the legislative period (June 20), various important issues are being debated in the Colombian Congress, among them we highlight five that occupy the headlines these days. The current legislature is about to end in a hectic period that is notably reflected in the issues on the agenda. Of course, the tax issue has been left for the first term of the next legislature. Meanwhile, the negotiations and the reactivation of the country are still underway.

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Junk Food Law

Colombia seeks to enact the front labeling of products, this will show the consumer if the content of the product exceeds the limits of sugars, sodium, fats, or calories considered "healthy". Following the footsteps of countries such as Chile, a pioneer in this area in the region, as well as Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and Ecuador. According to information from the Senate, last May Bill 347/2020 Senate, 167/2019 Chamber was approved in Commission VII (Health and Housing) in its third debate, which is only one away from obtaining the sanction of the government.

For a Bill to become such, it must be approved in two debates in each of the chambers that make up the Colombian Congress, a total of four debates. Two at the commission level and two at the plenary level, before being sanctioned by the government to make it official. The Junk Food Law has already passed through the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate where it awaits its final debate. 


Superpowers to the Attorney General's Office, a two-sided reform

The Office of the Attorney General of the Nation has had to adapt to a reality in which human rights are the guiding principle of its action, this before the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Petro Urrego case against Colombia. The IACHR affirmed that Petro's rights had been violated in his dismissal as mayor of Bogotá DC and disqualification for 15 years from holding public office by the Attorney General's Office. The response of the institution has been a project to reform the Disciplinary Code to have express power to investigate and judge popularly elected public servants to prevent cases like Petro's from being repeated. The problem is that various legislators and sectors of public opinion have expressed that this will become a means for the State to act against the opposition. 

Justice for justice

The long-awaited reform of Colombian justice was finally approved in its fourth debate, now it is two steps away from being a reality. It consists of a constitutionality review by the Constitutional Court and the sanction of the Executive branch. After various attempts, the reform that strengthens independence and modernizes the Colombian justice system in the technological sphere finally went ahead. However, some "monkeys", as they are called in Colombia, also stand out in a negative way, such as the requirements to occupy positions such as attorney, prosecutor, ombudsman, or registrar, in addition to budget issues for the judiciary.

You can also read:Infographic: Is Duque's Police Reform Enough For Colombian Protesters?

Agrarian Jurisdiction, the "historical debt"

A common problem in Latin America is that of the land, as a response in Colombia the creation of an agrarian jurisdiction is in the bill, within the framework of the peace accords with the FARC. In those terms, President Ivan Duque presented in 2020 the initiative to create this jurisdiction that seeks to create order and give certainty to land tenure and all the conflicts that currently exist around it. It has been one of the most controversial issues, one of its major critics has been the Senator of the Democratic Center, María Fernanda Cabal.  "The agrarian jurisdiction does exist and is contained in the ordinary jurisdiction . In addition, by increasing charges, costs are increased by at least 400 billion pesos a year, " she commented in the Senate.

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Police Reform

A sensitive issue due to the recent events in which the National Police were questioned for their actions, President Duque decided to promote a reform of the police as a way to respond to criticism. Duque's proposal is contrary to what the opposition intends since it seeks to regulate the actions of the police in terms of human rights and the use of force, but without harshness on the institution, according to legislators such as Juanita Goebertus of the Green Party. Some have described it as "cosmetic", and have accused it of not taking into account the criticisms of the opposition. 

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Labor Reform of former President Uribe

Another project that seems to be about to be approved in these latest debates is the Labor reform proposed by former President Uribe before resigning from the Senate. This project, among other things, aims to reduce the working day from 48 to 40 hours a week. This project also receives several criticisms from the government and business, and mistrust from the workers and opposition sectors, since it was Uribe himself in his mandate, who eliminated several worker benefits (such as overtime pay).