The faltering Colombian peace process with demobilized FARC guerrillas has been dealt a further blow with news that the execution of key elements could be delayed for up to a year.
President Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed the ratification of reserved congressional seats for conflict areas, but Christmas recess and elections could put the agenda on hold until late next year, according to Colombia Reports.
Santos had argued that a 50-vote approval constituted an electoral majority because three senators are in prison: their seats are formally vacant, effectively reducing the number of senators from 102 to 99.
As a result, at least 50 percent of the bills involved in the peace process now risk being stalled until the second half of 2018, after the presidential elections, having failed to make it through Congress in the first year.
To date, only two elements of the relevant legislation have been formally approved: judicial protection for the peace process, and special jurisdiction for peace. Ten bills have yet to appear on the congressional agenda.
Together, the bills would provide as many as eight million victims and 16 regions and with extra representation, regions which have long been neglected by the government and continue to reel from drug-fuelled violence.
Conservative and hard-right parties, however, have opposed the bills, claiming they could open Congress to crime groups or the FARC political party, which secured that bills as part of its transition to the political arena.
Senate President Efrain Cepeda, meanwhile, has vowed to investigate the government’s interpretation of legislative law.
At the same time, it has been announced that three local officials are to be tried for culpable homicide in the wake of an avalanche that killed more than 300 people in the southern town of Mocoa last year.
Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca, Putumayo Mayor Jose Antonio Castro and former Mayor Elver Porfidio "omitted preventive measures," Prosecutor Fabio Espitia told the Supreme Court. If convicted, they face up to nine years in prison.
The politicians, who had been warned about inadequate housing structures in the at-risk area by environmental authority Corpoamazonia, "disregarded their position as guarantor that obligated them to act with diligence to protect the lives of the people settled in risk areas," Fabia said.
"There was a high probability of a natural disaster of such magnitude, because the degree of imminent threat, vulnerability and danger of the population near the watersheds was known.
"Despite the scientific warnings, the Disaster Risk Management Plan and a system of early warnings were not activated by the Putumayo Governor's Office and the Mocoa City Hall.
"Indolence, negligence and imprudence in regards to prevention obligations may not remain in impunity."
The avalanche destroyed large parts of Mocoa on March 31, killing 336 and leaving a further 100 missing.
Aroca, Castro and Profidio are due to appear before the Supreme Court next Thursday.