Santos Goes Around Colombia’s Constitution

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from The Wall Street Journal,

The president wants a FARC deal to go with his Nobel Peace Prize.

In his attempt to secure a peace agreement with the narcoterrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has backtracked on numerous pledges to respect democracy. But none of his broken promises is as disgraceful as his announcement last week that he will push through Congress a final FARC accord that mimics—though he did not say so—the one repudiated in the national plebiscite on Oct. 2.

Mr. Santos claims that his new accord, signed by both sides in Bogotá on Thursday, contains revisions to the original text that take care of objections from the opposition. But he will not put it to a national vote as he has repeatedly vowed he would do since 2012.

Mr. Santos suffered an international humiliation when he lost the plebiscite. The Nobel committee gave him its peace prize a few days later, presumably to help restore his dignity. But it didn’t do much good. First, because it seemed like a story from the Onion, a satirical online newspaper: “President Polarizes Nation With Help of Terrorists, Wins Peace Prize.”

Second, because it didn’t take Colombians long to recognize the conflicts of interest that Norway, one of the guarantors of the Havana deal, had in trying to boost the Santos brand. Nevertheless, on Dec. 10 Mr. Santos will be in Oslo for the ceremony. He doesn’t dare show up without an agreement in hand.

Mr. Santos said on these pages last week that the new agreement is better because, for example, it asks FARC members to declare their assets and withdraws a plan to use foreign judges in their cases.

But like the original, it lets the FARC off with no jail time, provides political eligibility for FARC felons and gives unelected congressional seats to representatives from FARC strongholds. It’s not clear how the FARC will pay reparations to victims and it makes drug trafficking by the guerrillas—but not other drug lords—a pardonable crime.

The new agreement parrots the old in that it creates something called “transitional justice,” which discards equality under the law and creates a parallel justice system tailor-made to suit the FARC’s interests. There is no obligation for the FARC to return thousands of child-soldiers or account for the ones who died as FARC conscripts. The FARC still gets some 30 radio stations with which to disburse its propaganda.

Perhaps worst of all is the government’s unilateral decision to give the accord constitutional standing, so that the many concessions to the FARC that violate the constitution cannot be challenged in court.

A constitution is as much a social pact as it is a legal document. In most modern liberal democracies, including Colombia, changing it requires an inclusive, national conversation and buy-in by a broad representation of the country.

If Mr. Santos respected democracy he would ask Congress to amend the constitution. But an amendment requires a total of eight debates and eight votes in the upper and lower legislative chambers over two consecutive legislative sessions. The president prefers executive decree.

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