Colombia’s Senate holds a debate over the presence in the country of a 53-person U.S. training brigade (Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB). The debate is called by opposition senators, who allege that the deployment violates Colombia’s constitution, which requires Senate approval for the transit of troops through national territory. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, in an hourlong statement, insists that the U.S. personnel are not “transiting through” on their four-month deployment, but are collaborating to fight narcotrafficking. Ruling-party Senator and former president Álvaro Uribe leads the bloc of senators defending the U.S. troop deployment. Opposition legislators voice strong concern that the U.S. deployment could be a step toward Colombian involvement in a conflict with Venezuela.
- Senate President Lidio García raises the possibility that the body might re-visit legislation, foreseen in the peace accord, that would create 16 temporary congressional districts for conflict victims, not political parties. Though legislation to create these districts won a majority of Senate votes in late 2017, the absence of senators from the chamber raised questions about whether a quorum existed. A quorum did exist if one excluded the seats of senators who had been suspended, for corruption or similar reasons, but the legislation was ruled as failing to pass, and the special districts were not created for the 2018 legislative elections. In light of a 2019 Constitutional Court decision on the quorum question, Senator García signals an intention to send the 2017 bill to President Duque as approved legislation. If Duque signs it, the temporary seats for victims, representing 16 conflict zones, would be created.
- High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos casts doubt on the temporary congressional districts, contending that the Constitutional Court’s 2019 decision cannot be applied retroactively to a vote that took place in 2017.