(CNN Spanish) — President Iván Duque “did not listen to the opposition” as established in the statutes, said Senator Roy Barreras, referring to the boos that the president received while giving his last speech during the inauguration of the new Colombian Congress that he presides over.
In an interview with Jennifer Montoya of CNN en Español, Barreras also explained what a process of demobilization of criminal gangs could be like and its differences with the process that was followed with the demobilized FARC guerrilla, and responded to criticism of his political career. .
This was the interview with Café CNN, lightly edited for readability.
Had you seen or attended a congressional installation as messy as the one experienced by Colombia?
Roy Barreras: We must explain to those who follow us on CNN that in Colombia, when Congress changes, the ceremony of change is organized by the outgoing Congress, which today, of course, corresponds to the majorities of the government that has just ended.
This noise was generated because in Colombia there is a healthy opposition statute for democracy that requires that the president, after his speech, must listen to the opposition. The president did not listen to the opposition and, of course, the new voices, almost all of them new, of human rights defenders, of victims, of animal rights activists, of environmentalists —who come with some claims and some voices from deep Colombia that want out of violence towards peace—because they wanted the president to listen and they shouted their voice of protest.
But let’s say that it is a minor episode, because a new Congress has already been installed, which will be the Congress of change.
In your speech, you talked about giving criminal gangs a chance, and a letter signed by 27 of those groups is circulating in the local media saying that they are willing to sit down with the government to talk. I ask you: Have you already had rapprochements with those criminal groups?
First, the norm in Colombia requires that it be exclusively the presidential jurisdiction. It is the national government that begins on August 7 that has the power to open those roads and order what those conditions of submission to justice will be. But from my perspective as a negotiator and negotiator of the peace agreement with the FARC six years ago, I must make these clarifications.
Transitional justice, which is called the JEP in Colombia, is enabled as a path for insurgencies, that is, for organizations that have had some kind of political relationship with their armed struggle, but not for drug trafficking organizations. Common criminal organizations in Colombia have ordinary criminal justice, the Penal Code.
However, in order to facilitate the collective submission to justice of these organizations and for them to stop killing, to stop doing damage, I am pleased that the first response to this desire of Congress to process regulations that allow their demobilization is this letter in which They announce that they are going to stop killing. It’s always good news when they stop killing.
On August 7, surely the government of President Petro, who wants peace, social justice and environmental justice, we obey his directives, will tell us all (…) what the mechanisms of that submission to justice are going to be .
The president-elect, Gustavo Petro, says that the goal is to bring out at least three reforms in this first year, and yesterday you announced a bill to streamline those procedures. What many are concerned about, senator, here I am asking you, is that in the midst of this haste of the new government the Constitution is trampled. There was already a controversy because you spoke of the fast-trackthen explained what it was about, but I ask you that question: Are regulations going to be modified to do things quickly in Congress?
We do not need to change any rules. We need to comply with the popular, legal and constitutional order to work. It is that, as we have said in Colombia, we have a saying that perhaps you know, “the guachafita is over” of working two days a week and this Congress that ends has a 75% negative image. It was perhaps the most ineffective and most disconnected Congress.
We have a popular mandate of more than 11 million Colombians who, in an unprecedented torrent of opinion, demand profound changes to close the social gap and stop the violence. We are going to fulfill that mandate, but we also have an obligation to another 10 million Colombians who did not vote for us because they were afraid. To them, a guarantee of institutional stability, of respect for the Constitution, of respect for the rules, but step on the accelerator, we are going to carry out the reform.
The independence of the Executive from the Legislative sets off several alarms. The Historical Pact has majorities and also very strong alliances with very different parties, but which allow them a majority vote. And you are a token between both powers. Is President Gustavo Petro’s Congress going to guarantee independence?
We said yesterday: exchange guarantee, institutional guarantee, stability guarantee, work guarantee.
The board of directors that was elected reflects the response to that call for the great National Agreement that has gone down very well in Colombia. The campaign of polarization ended. It is a single country. Those two Colombias in a single homeland. That table, to share with you, is chaired by the Historical Pact that won the presidential election, but has a member of the Liberal Party in the first vice-presidency, a party that did not win the presidential election, but I thank him and others who joined the voice of change, to the so-called president Petro. In the Board of Directors in Colombia, the second vice presidency that corresponds to the opposition party, the Democratic Center of former President Uribe, yesterday that right of the opposition was chosen accordingly, which of course will be guaranteed.
You are recognized in the country as a very shrewd politician capable of drawing up or pushing bills. He has been in different parties, something that has also been criticized, but within the Historical Pact, his party, there are people who seem not to be happy with his appointment as president of the Senate. Do you think that this can generate frictions that in the end can divide the Historical Pact and not bring about the reforms that they need?
No, that is healthy for democracy. Respect those who decide to oppose, those who decide to criticize. I thank the Historical Pact bench, a beautiful bench. Half of the bench are women, there are peasants, animal activists, popular fighters. Yesterday, Senator Iván Cepeda, Senator Clara López, Gloria Flores, the Patriotic Union, the Democratic Pole, all the forces of the left who know that we have a mandate, had the generosity to proclaim me.
We are no longer opposition, we are no longer critical, it is no longer enough with the likes nor with the trills. Now we are a government bench and we have to make the reforms. The change is the reforms. So I invite everyone to make the reforms.
We have made changes. Perhaps the most important change of the 21st century in Colombia, as the world recognized, was the peace agreement that I myself had the opportunity and honor to sign as negotiator and signatory. But a decade ago we recognized nine million victims and recognized the armed conflict, a very important change that I also had the opportunity to make. We know how to make the change, we are going to fulfill the purpose of President Petro and the popular mandate.
One of the criticisms is that you have been in very different political parties. He has been in the party of former President Uribe and now he is in that of Petro, who are political antagonists. In fact, there is a lawsuit being filed against you in the Council of State for dual militancy. Do you think you could lose that seat for this reason?
I start at the end. That is an accident. I have no importance. The importance lies with the 11.5 million Colombians who have a popular mandate. Someone has to do this task, so don’t worry about it.
And a precision: I never militated in President Uribe’s party and I do not militate in President Petro’s party. For more than a dozen years I have accompanied the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who has a legacy of liberal origin. I stay on it, I said it yesterday. And of course, this legacy of liberal origin implies respect for life, for the rights of all, also for private companies, also for entrepreneurial initiative, also for corporate legal certainty.
And I think that President Petro has made it clear. He is the first president of the left in 200 years, but he has had the wisdom, the intelligence, the stature of a statesman, to surround himself in his cabinet and in other political expressions with voices that guarantee these two Colombia changes, but also stability and balance. . It is my duty. I will honor him, as I have for 12 years.
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“The president did not listen to the opposition,” says Roy Barreras after booing Duque in Congress