Colombia’s process to select a new attorney general is not going smoothly. On Thursday, February 8, Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice met for a second time to try and choose a new attorney general. But, like the first round of voting, none of the three candidates nominated by Colombian President Gustavo Petro received the sixteen votes necessary to take office. In response, Petro called on supporters to take to the streets and they surrounded the court, demanding the magistrates pick a new attorney general.
That type of pressure is undue and inappropriate. Past attorney general selection processes have taken longer than this one, and have always involved at least three rounds of voting. But the court also appears to be stalling for time. In the first round of voting, supreme court magistrates cited insufficient time to review each of the candidate’s credentials as grounds for withholding their votes, despite having several months to mull over their choices. Moreover, outgoing Attorney General Francisco Barbosa’s second-in-command, Marta Mancera, who will take over on an interim basis next week until the supreme court finally makes a choice, is credibly accused of aiding drug traffickers. The Supreme Court of Justice will now hold a third round of voting on February 22.
All three candidates put forth by Petro are highly qualified, have strong anti-corruption credentials, and unlike Barbosa, don’t maintain close personal ties to the President who nominated them. Luz Adriana Camargo Garzón worked for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala with current Colombian Minister of Defense Iván Velásqez, and was a part of the team that investigated the parapolítica scandal. Amelia Pérez Parra was the former head of the Colombian attorney general’s human rights unit, where she supervised investigations of right-wing paramilitary groups, like the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia). Ángela María Buitrago Ruiz is a criminal law professor at the Universidad de Externado de Colombia and former subject-matter expert at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos). Any of the three candidates, if elected, would be less prone to clashing with Petro than Barbosa, who has relentlessly criticized the president and his security policy. Still, given their track records of independence, none are likely to halt the ongoing investigations into Petro’s family members and allies.
Electoral reform an early failure in omnibus fiasco. One of the earliest sets of reforms ejected from Milei’s now-failed omnibus bill focused on reforming Argentina’s electoral system. These changes would have done away with the country’s primary elections and left candidate selection processes up to parties, opening space for new smaller parties and lessening incentives for rival Peronist and right-of-center factions to coalesce. They would have redistributed lower house seats by population, strengthening the legislative influence of Buenos Aires and making it less likely that politicians could ascend from rural provinces like Santa Cruz, as did former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Relaxed limits on private donations to political parties would have given businesses and elites a bigger seat at the policymaking table, countering the political power of unions and other organized Peronist organizations.
Though Milei is not eager to reintroduce other omnibus measures, he could reintroduce these electoral reforms for debate come March, when congress enters its regular session. But the changes would undermine those in power. Elected as an outsider, Milei’s party holds only a few dozen seats in the legislature, making these dreams of reforming Argentina’s electoral system a non-starter.
The collapse of El Salvador’s opposition is bad news for Bukele. Despite an unprecedented breakdown in the vote-counting system, which had delayed official results, Nayib Bukele appears to have won big in Sunday’s elections—per his claims, with 85 percent of the vote for president and 58 of 60 seats in the legislature. Opposition parties will be lucky to hold onto a handful of seats in the legislative assembly. The opposition’s demise reflects their inability to woo voters with new ideas or new candidates after a big loss to Bukele in 2019. It also resulted from Bukele’s harassment and intimidation of their more experienced leaders, who might have brought their know-how to organizing a stronger campaign had they not already left the country. But with total control comes total responsibility. Bukele now faces slowing growth, rising extreme poverty, and unsustainable debt levels with no opposition to blame. If these problems eventually sour Salvadorans on the state of their country, they will have no one to blame but the governing party and Bukele.