sunny.png
Monday November 23rd, 2020 12:14PM

Colombia anti-corruption referendum comes up shy on votes

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — An anti-corruption referendum in Colombia drew millions to the polls Sunday but fell just short of a required participation threshold to push forward measures aimed at improving transparency and stiffening penalties for white-collar criminals.

Nearly 11.7 million Colombians cast ballots overwhelmingly in favor of seven initiatives proposed to stamp out corruption in the upper echelons of power, failing to draw the 12.1 million voters needed to pass the initiatives, according to quick-count results from over 99 percent of polling stations.

Proponents nonetheless hailed the higher-than-expected turnout as a forceful message from citizens: Enact laws now that put an end to special privileges for lawmakers and make public spending more efficient.

"This historic vote, this decisive victory by free citizens, gives a clear and strong mandate to the government and congress," said Claudia Lopez, a former senator and vice presidential candidate spearheading the referendum.

The referendum included questions like whether to hand down tougher penalties on corrupt officials who now often serve out sentences in multi-million dollar homes; whether term limits should be imposed on lawmakers, and whether the salaries of members of Congress should be reduced by 40 percent.

Colombian law currently sets senators' salaries at about $124,000 per year, more than what parliamentarians make in countries like Holland, Sweden and France.

Most Colombians agree corruption is a plague that needs to be exterminated, but not everyone agreed that a vote was the best way to do so. The referendum was boycotted by judges over fears it would lead to wage cuts in the judicial branch since a law states salaries for top magistrates should be the same as those of lawmakers.

"We already have lots of anti-corruption laws," Hermens Lara, a Bogota municipal judge who is director of the Board of Judges and Magistrates of Colombia, said before the vote. "The problem is implementing them."

Newly elected President Ivan Duque and most of Colombia's main political parties backed the measure, but did little to promote it or to lure voters to the polls. Some experts questioned whether the changes would do anything to curb corruption elsewhere, such as within the judiciary or police.

"Some of the proposals have no impact on corruption," said Marcela Anzola, a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank. Still she said that passage would "give greater legitimacy to anti-corruption initiatives and send a strong message to politicians."

According to Colombia's inspector general, corruption in the country is equivalent to 4 percent of gross domestic product each year. One recent study by Transparency International found that 63 percent of companies in Colombia feared losing business if they did not engage in bribery.

That face of corruption in Colombia marks a stark change from the days when cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was elected to Congress and his rivals in the Cali Cartel helped elect a president. Just a little over a decade ago, scores of congressional members were also charged or investigated for ties to right-wing paramilitary groups.

But today, experts say the biggest threat comes from white-collar criminals.

One example is the expansion of an oil refinery in Cartagena, which ended up costing more than double its projected $3.3 billion price tag due to what authorities described as mismanagement and graft by officials who were in cahoots with contractors.

The referendum would have given Colombia's Congress a year to pass legislation implementing the proposals or force Duque to do so by decree.

The measures needed approval from 12.1 million voters — or roughly a third of the 36 million registered voters. Turnout in the country's recent presidential election barely reached 50 percent, while a 2016 referendum on a peace deal with leftist rebels to end a half century of fighting barely drew 13 million votes.

In an address to the nation Sunday evening, Duque urged lawmakers to press forward with reforms even though the final vote tally came up short.

"We consulted society, and society responded: No more corruption," he said.

Lopez and her supporters tried to overcome voter apathy with the help of a famous satirist, recording a campaign video that shows Lopez and a handful of middle-aged congressmen dressed up as reggaeton singers who riff that corruption is the "cancer of Colombia" and must be stopped.

"Corrupt politicians will never vote to place limits on themselves," she said. "That's why this referendum is the best tool we have to tackle corruption."

Julian Ramirez, an 18-year-old political science student in Bogota, said he had been campaigning for the anti-corruption referendum since last year, when activists collected 4 million signatures to get officials to fund the vote.

"Fighting corruption should be something we can all unite under," Ramirez said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Sheriff: Gunman kills 2, then himself at video game tourney
Authorities say a gunman opened fire at an online video game tournament that was being livestreamed from a Florida mall, killing two people and then fatally shooting himself
10:53PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Gentle humor was the lifeblood of playwright Neil Simon
Neil Simon remembered for gentle humor, plays focused on middle-class life
10:36PM ( 22 minutes ago )
For McCain, a cross-country farewell from public, presidents
Two former presidents are to speak at John McCain's service and the late senator will lie in state in both the nation's capital and Arizona
10:35PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
For McCain, a life of courage, politics came down to 1 vote
For John McCain, a lifetime of courage, contradictions and contrarianism came down to one vote, in the middle of the night, in the twilight of his career
7:31PM ( 3 hours ago )
A Democratic governor in Wyoming? It could happen _ again
Democrats eye best chance in years of reclaiming Wyoming governor's office
6:20PM ( 4 hours ago )
Replacing McCain in the Senate is political balancing act
In filling Sen. John McCain's now-vacant Senate seat, Arizona's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, faces a tricky political balancing act
5:30PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Ward suggests McCain statement timed to hurt her
A candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona has suggested that a statement that Sen. John McCain was ending medical treatment was designed to hurt her campaign
12:16PM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Governor to wait to announce McCain replacement
The governor of Arizona does not plan to announce whom he will appoint to replace Republican John McCain in the U.S. Senate until after McCain's burial
12:05PM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Petraeus says McCain 'had the backs' of troops
Retired Gen. David Petraeus is honoring Sen. John McCain as a distinguished veteran who always "had the backs" of military service members
10:29AM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Michael Cohen thanks GoFundMe donors, birthday well-wishers
Michael Cohen is tweeting thanks to people who've sent him birthday wishes and who've contributed to his legal defense fund
9:12AM ( 13 hours ago )
A subdued Zimbabwe inaugurates Mnangagwa again after vote
A subdued Zimbabwe inaugurates Mnangagwa again after bitterly disputed election
6:49AM ( 16 hours ago )
A subdued Zimbabwe set for Mnangagwa's inauguration, again
A subdued Zimbabwe readies for Mnangagwa's inauguration after bitterly disputed election
4:53AM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Trump, Obama offer sympathy upon McCain's death
Trump offers his "deepest sympathies and respect" to the family of Sen. John McCain upon his death.
9:24PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Trump offers sympathies upon McCain's death
Trump offers his "deepest sympathies and respect" to the family of Sen. John McCain upon his death
9:06PM ( 1 day ago )
After long fight against brain cancer, McCain ends treatment
John McCain has an aggressive form of brain cancer, and the 81-year-old Republican senator from Arizona has fought a long battle against the disease _ and surpassed expectations for survival, but now he's discontinued treatment
8:10PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Pope apologizes for 'crimes' against Irish women, babies
Pope Francis issued a sweeping apology Sunday for the "crimes" of the Catholic Church in Ireland, saying church officials didn't respond with compassion, truth or justice to the many children and women who were abused over generations
8:12PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Pope declines to confirm ex-ambassador's claim
Pope Francis has declined to confirm or deny claims by the Vatican's retired U.S. ambassador that he briefed the pope in 2013 about sexual misconduct allegations against disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
6:34PM ( 4 hours ago )
Letter: Vatican knew about disgraced archbishop's behavior
Retired ambassador: Senior Vatican officials knew that disgraced archbishop invited seminarians into bed
1:59PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP World News
Maine governor hospitalized after experiencing 'discomfort'
Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage is in stable condition and under observation at a hospital after experiencing discomfort
4:44PM ( 6 hours ago )
With minuscule drop, 'Crazy Rich Asians' is No. 1 again
The romantic comedy sensation "Crazy Rich Asians" slid just 6 percent from its chart-topping debut to again lead the box office with $25 million, according to studio estimates Sunday
2:46PM ( 8 hours ago )
Aspirin disappoints for avoiding first heart attack, stroke
New studies find most people won't benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin or fish oil supplements to prevent a first heart attack or stroke
11:08AM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Business
Sheriff: Gunman kills 2, then himself at video game tourney
Authorities say a gunman opened fire at an online video game tournament that was being livestreamed from a Florida mall, killing two people and then fatally shooting himself
10:53PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Gentle humor was the lifeblood of playwright Neil Simon
Neil Simon remembered for gentle humor, plays focused on middle-class life
10:36PM ( 23 minutes ago )
For McCain, a cross-country farewell from public, presidents
Two former presidents are to speak at John McCain's service and the late senator will lie in state in both the nation's capital and Arizona
10:35PM ( 24 minutes ago )
The Latest: Services and other events set for McCain
Services and other events will honor the late Sen. John McCain over the next week
10:34PM ( 25 minutes ago )
LEADING OFF: Morales swings for HR record; AL West showdown
LEADING OFF: Morales takes swing at home run record; AL West showdown in Houston; Murphy faces Mets with new team; Yankees chase Boston; Strasburg goes again; Gray on a roll for Rockies
10:30PM ( 29 minutes ago )