President Santos appointed German Vargas Lleras as his Interior and Justice Minister to oversee the enactment and implementation of a key piece of legislation, which the minister has described as “the most ambitious human rights project in Colombia and an example to the world”.
The country’s Senate approved the Victims and Land Restitution Law in May this year. The legislation will provide reparations to the victims of violence during the conflict among the government, guerrillas and drug traffickers, and return stolen land to people forced off their property.
President Santos and Mr. Vargas Lleras are working hard on other reforms as well. One important area is changing the law which governs the distribution of royalties generated by extracting the country’s mineral wealth. The new legislation will divide the country into six regions and ensure that each one receives royalties from the minerals taken from within its borders.
Transparency in government and in the justice system is another project for the ministry. The goal is to provide citizens, companies and investors with a level playing field, and to fight the scourge of corruption. The new rules will prevent businesses or people who have been involved with past corrupt practices, for example, from getting more work with the government.
To provide even more certainty, the government has proposed a change to the Constitution that will end the possibility of retroactive sentences regarding taxation and on penal matters. There is also a plan to strengthen arbitration as a means of solving legal conflicts, which will provide a faster alternative to the courts.
“President Santos is setting an example of democracy, unity, of a new Colombia where his main focus is not on solving the past problems, but on looking straight ahead,” says Horacio Velez de Bedout, president of telecommunications company UNE. “I don’t think we need to return to gain momentum, the momentum is in ourselves.”