A court member accused fellow judges of taking money for voting to approve the law paving the way for presidents to serve more than one term
A major scandal erupted in Colombia one day after the country's Constitutional Court opened the way for conservative pro-US President Alvaro Uribe to run for a second four-year term in May. A member of the court accused fellow magistrate Rodrigo Escobar of taking money for voting to approve the law allowing presidents to serve more than one term.
The ruling in favor of re-election was announced on Wednesday night and could allow the right-wing Uribe to compete in May's election. Opinion polls predict he would win easily thanks to tough policies against rebels.
Mr. Escobar said he would ask for sanctions against colleague Jaime Araujo, who accused him. "He was furious and said I wanted us to vote quickly (on the law) so they'd pay me for my vote quickly," said Escobar, denied the accusation and added he would ask Congress to begin disciplinary proceedings.
Araujo, who voted against the re-election law, was unrepentant in an appearance on local television but said he might resign from the nine-member court. "It seems many people in this country are uncomfortable with things I say," he said.
In the meantime, the rule was welcomed in the US as Uribe is President George W. Bush closest ally in Latin America. Many on Wall Street appeared to agree. Colombian sovereign bonds rose on Thursday following the re-election ruling.
Bush has repeatedly supported Uribe's hard line against leftist armed rebels as increased US military involvement in the country. Pro-government legislators who backed re-election said it would provide stability in a country which has suffered four decades of guerrilla war. Analysts believe Uribe could easily win in May.
Even some of Uribe's opponents appeared to conclude Wednesday's ruling had handed him the May election on a plate. "We're afraid Uribe's policies are going to continue for a longer period," said Carlos Gaviria, who hopes to be the main left-wing presidential candidate next year and argues for more social spending and negotiations with rebels.
Photo: Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe