Cablegate: New Developments On Reelection

Published: Tue 2 Nov 2004 06:06 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
id: 22375
date: 11/2/2004 18:31
refid: 04BOGOTA12860
origin: Embassy Bogota
destination: 04Bogota12290
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
----------------- header ends ----------------
E.O. 12958: DNG: UN 12/20/2014
REF: Bogota 12290
1. (SBU) Summary: Congress has reformed the Constitution
to permit presidential reelection. Implementing
legislation is pending for the upcoming session. Legal
challenges are likely. A showdown between two high courts
is also a possibility. End Summary.
2. (U) On December 14, the Senate and House both passed
by large margins the conference committee version of
legislation to permit presidential reelection (two terms
maximum, consecutive or staggered). The conference
version (faxed to WHA/AND) produced a new twist, however,
and poloffs followed up by consulting on legal and
procedural issues with the House Speaker, the Secretaries
General of both houses, and numerous members of Congress,
one an immediate past magistrate of the Constitutional
3. (U) The legislation completed eight rounds of
debate/vote in both houses of Congress earlier this month
(reftel). The Constitution at this point is considered
amended. The next step, which must take place during the
next session of Congress, March-June 2005, is passage of
implementing legislation, which requires majority votes in
both houses. Once the Congress passes implementing
legislation, the Constitutional Court would then have
three months to review that legislation (a mandatory
requirement). It is worth noting that at this point any
individual or party can legally challenge the
Constitutional reform.
4. (U) The conference committee version of the
legislation added a new twist, however. The text
stipulates that if either:
A) The Congress fails to pass implementing legislation by
June; or
B) The Constitutional Court declares eventual implementing
legislation null and void;
Then the 27-member Council of State (Consejo de Estado)
would be instructed to issue implementing legislation
within two months of either of the above two events. This
has generated controversy in media and political circles.
Another important aspect of the legislation is that
sitting governors and mayors may run for president or vice
president in 2006 provided they resign their current post
one year prior to the presidential election, scheduled for
May 2006.
5. (SBU) The legal foundation of the Council of State
fallback option is subject to much debate. Senator Carlos
Gaviria, a former Constitutional Court magistrate,
questioned the move and told poloffs on December 17 that
in any eventual showdown between the Constitutional Court
and Council of State the former would likely prevail. In
addition, leading daily El Tiempo ran an article on
December 16 in which several former members of the Court
and Council were interviewed regarding the fallback
option. None were in agreement about whether the
provision was insurmountable on legal grounds.
6. (SBU) Comment: Given Uribe's high approval rating and
the wide margins of passage of the legislation, it is
probable that the Congress will pass implementing
legislation in the next session and that the fallback
option will not be necessary.
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