Transparency International, the Berlin-based NGO focused on exposing corruption and other illicit activities, has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ over the Colombian government’s increased influence over state institutions and ‘the growing concentration of power in the President of the Republic to the detriment of civil liberties and other branches of power’.
In a statement published on its website, Transparency International (TI) highlighted a series of recent developments which have consolidated power within Duque’s presidency, raising concerns over democratic processes in Colombia. The government’s close relationship with congressional majorities, such as President Iván Duque’s party, the Democratic Centre, has enhanced presidential powers. In addition, emergency measures enacted ostensibly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have given the president powers to pass legislation without congressional approval.
TI also said that regional authorities have seen their jurisdictions reduced and decision-making redirected towards national government, with concerning implications for ‘freedom of expression, citizen participation and access to public information’. The government has also appointed close allies to head supposedly autonomous institutions – specifically the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the Ombudsman – in a move which risks jeopardising the balance of powers important to making the executive accountable.
According to the Chair of TI, Delia Ferreira Rubio, ‘[d]uring the pandemic, there has been a trend of increasing authority in the executive branch in many countries. However, we are deeply concerned that the system of checks and balances in Colombia has also been affected by questions over the independence of institutions that must monitor and control the President.’
‘We reiterate that the increase in executive powers to fight the pandemic and reactivate the economy are not blank cheques for the use of public resources or for taking fundamental decisions on the functioning of democracy,’ added Ferreira Rubio.
TI said it would continue monitoring of institutional autonomy and accountability around government.