The possibility of an economic emergency being declared in Colombia in the last year is an idea that has been on President Gustavo Petro’s mind since last year, even before he won the elections that brought him to power in August. of 2022. On three occasions and for different reasons, the then presidential candidate raised it and insisted on it once he took office, until it was finalized this Friday, as announced from Paris (France) where it is located, arguing the impact that the arrival of the El Niño phenomenon will have on La Guajira.

(Also read: President Gustavo Petro will declare an economic and social emergency: why?)

In March 2022, when President Gustavo Petro was a presidential candidate, he would guarantee that one of the first decisions he would make when he became President would be to decree an emergency to resolve «the social catastrophe of hunger» facing the country, a decision that would allow food to be brought to the most vulnerable population in Colombia.

Four months later, Luis Carlos Reyes, then director of the National Tax and Customs Directorate (Dian), touched on the subject again. The official said that the incoming government did not rule out the idea of ​​decreeing such an emergency to face the hunger crisis.

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Possibility that this possibility became a ceiling in mid-September of that same year, when Gustavo Petro had already assumed the reins of the country. On that occasion, the justification was to face and reduce the risks as a result of the climate crisis and the increase in rainfall during the next three months.

According to the National Planning Department (DNP), 9.76 million tons of food are lost and wasted annually in the country.



Apparently the fourth was the charm and this time the president took refuge in the effects of climate change that will bring the high waves of heat as a result of the El Niño phenomenon to decree the much-announced economic emergency, which gives the President extraordinary powers to , having the signature of all the ministers, issue decrees with the force of law that are exclusively intended to ward off the crisis and prevent the spread of its effects.

In September of last year, this possibility arose given the risks generated by the second strongest rainy season in the country, when combined with the La Niña phenomenon and the second hurricane season.

The Ideam climate prediction model estimated that for the quarter of September, October and November the rains would be 30 percent higher than the historical averages in La Guajira, Magdalena, Atlántico, Cesar, Norte de Santander, Boyacá, the center of the region. Andean and Amazon trapeze.

Today the impacts would come from the rise in temperatures, mainly in La Guajira, produced by El Niño.

extraordinary powers

According to article 215 of the Political Constitution of Colombia, The President may declare such a state of emergency when events occur that «seriously and imminently disturb or threaten to disturb» the economic and social order or that constitute a «serious public calamity.» This period may be up to 30 days, which added may not exceed 90 days in the calendar year.

The last economic emergency declared in the country was on March 17, 2020 to contain the covid-19 crisis. Also noteworthy is that of 2010 to deal with the natural disasters of the La Niña phenomenon and prevent the extension of its effects, or that of 1998, which sought to deal with the domestic financial crisis of that time.

However, the Constitution establishes that these decrees must be used exclusively to address the crisis, in this case, the consequences of the winter wave.
In addition to it, The Government must send the Constitutional Court the day after its issuance of the legislative decrees so that this institution can decide on their constitutionality. In this way, it could knock them down in the event that they do not fit.

In addition, during the year following the declaration, Congress may repeal, modify or add the decrees issued, in those matters that are ordinarily the initiative of the Government.

What does the Constitution say?

The experts assure that in order to declare such an emergency, the Government must demonstrate that this El Niño phenomenon is indeed a supervening event that seriously and imminently affects the economic order or constitutes a serious public calamity.

They add that an economic emergency cannot be declared due to known problems that the country has, only for emergencies that arise unexpectedly, so it would be necessary to see how the Government justifies a possible declaration and it will be the Court that defines its validity or No.

«A state of exception cannot be decreed for foreseeable events» but for those that are unforeseeable. «If something is being planned, the necessary measures will probably be taken now,» says Juan Manuel Charry, constitutionalist.