In the midst of the political turmoil of the Petro Government, the ghost of the Constituent Assembly appears


Faced with the threat that the announced reforms will fail, a sector of the Historical Pact believes that President Gustavo Petro should convene an assembly to modify the Constitution. These are the risks.


The storm that President Gustavo Petro is going through, among other reasons, due to the risk that his reforms will be shipwrecked in Congress, has led a sector of the Historical Pact to dust off an old idea that has alarm bells going off: the call for a constituent assembly with in order to modify the Constitution and the very structure of the State. This is a plan that is beginning to be heard insistently through the halls of Congress.

The first to put the issue on the table was the Christian leader Alfredo Saade, former presidential candidate of the Historical Pact, who told SEMANA: “Congress must be closed and a referendum must be called to give way to a constituent assembly.” His proposal arose as a result of the difficult scenario with the government coalition that could reject the ambitious legislative package of Petro.

In the ranks of petrism, this idea is not new. In February 2018, for example, the then-candidate Petro left no doubt that this approach sounds familiar to him to carry out his proposals for change, the same ones that the coalition parties refuse to support because they consider them dangerous for the country: ” I propose that a territorialized and pluralist constituent make the reforms that the Constitution of 1991 did not: that of the territory, the reform of health, education, justice, politics and the transition towards a productive economy”.

But years later, in December 2021, in the recent presidential campaign, Petro changed his mind. “Why are we going to undo what we did? The 1991 Constitution serves to make the changes in Colombia,” she said. However, these changes have not materialized and all the reforms have a red light in Congress.

Saade said that he has not received calls from the president either in support or rejection of his proposal. For this reason, he began to form committees in the departments with the objective of collecting 10 million signatures to request the referendum.

In the opposition they consider that the Christian pastor does not act alone and, on the contrary, could set the subject to measure the temperature. Congressmen from the Liberal Party, La U and Cambio Radical do not rule out that the president himself is fostering an atmosphere of chaos in front of Congress to later call a referendum and, through a constituent assembly, approve his reforms.

One risk is that the door to presidential re-election is opened and the very organization of the State is modified to endow the Executive with many more powers to the detriment of the Legislative and Judicial branches. Until now, Congress has put the brakes on the government’s plans. “Health care reform is ideologized, generates confrontation, chaos, and seeks to divide the country between those who are with it and those who are not,” said Senator David Luna, from Cambio Radical.

Before the idea of ​​a constituent, in the Historical Pact there are different positions. Congressman Alejandro Ocampo said that, at least for now, he opposes the initiative. However, he issued a warning: “If the expression of the primary constituent is not respected and through the maneuvers of congressmen and political parties they want to make us change our minds, then we will eventually make a constituent.”

Senator Piedad Córdoba, one of the staunchest defenders of the Minister of Health, Carolina Corcho, stirred up the rumors even more. She said that “a national constituent assembly is needed for a new political reform” and affirmed that the inability of Congress “to lead structural transformations in political matters” is evident.

There are more serene voices, like that of congressman Heraclito Landinez, from the Historical Pact, who oppose a constituent assembly and even less any idea that leads to a closure of Congress. “The representative democracy of the 1991 Constitution has its democratic essence in the election of Congress. To ignore the Legislature is to ignore the Constitution and popular sovereignty. Proposing a constituent right now is something that is outside of all institutional channels,” Ladinez warned.

In that sense, some opposition leaders have said that in an eventual referendum in which the question of revoking Congress is included, it should also be asked if the country agrees to change the president. That, precisely, was what Horacio Serpa said when former President Andrés Pastrana proposed, through his then minister Fabio Valencia Cossio, to revoke Congress at the end of the 1990s.

The idea of ​​a constituent assembly would also have to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court. Likewise, the referendum requires electoral logistics and its call date at the polls may not coincide with any of the scheduled elections. That means investing more than 100,000 million pesos in a country whose finances are tight.

Faced with this complex scenario, President Petro will most likely take the less thorny path: understand that, even though he came to the House of Nariño with more than 11 million votes, he needs consensus on his reforms to ensure majorities in the Congress.

As far as the government goes, that has not happened. In less than a month, the political reform failed in the First Committee of the Senate and the health reform threatens to sink in the Seventh Committee of the Chamber without even taking its first debate. Petro is aware of the crisis and fears that the collapse of the political reform will be repeated not only in health, but also in labor, pension, in the law of submission and the law of prison humanization.

In recent days, the liberals, the conservatives and La U broke with the Casa de Nariño on account of the health reform. Given this scenario, the president ordered the draft of the project to be adjusted to include the requests of Dilian Francisca Toro, director of La U, and Efraín Cepeda, director of the Conservative Party.

If after Easter his strategy fails and the health reform sinks, the president will resort to his plan B: summon the citizens to the streets. “We must insist on social mobilization,” several congressmen agree. But if nothing works, will they take the idea of ​​a constituent seriously? The country must be alert.

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