Colombians Abroad Ask for More Representatives Back Home

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

[Some 600,000 Colombians residents in the U.S. are called to vote on the next presidential election on May 27. Several voting centers have been set up in the tri-state area.]

Colombians in our area are not happy with the last election in their country, where congressional members were chosen. One seat representing Colombians abroad was eliminated, and now they are asking their only elected official to get moving to increase the number of seats to represent them.

At a political meeting held last weekend in New York, residents of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut called on Juan David Vélez, the sole official representing expatriates, to expand the number of legislators speaking on their behalf.

In 2005, Colombians immigrants had one representative. After intense pressure, a law was passed in 2013 to allow two representatives in the lower chamber. Still, the so-called “power balance reform” of 2015 took it down a notch by allowing only one representative for expats.

The change was made because the legal amendment took one representative away to give it to the island of San Andrés, which has a population of 70,000 and whose sovereignty is contested with Nicaragua.

“We had two, and they took one away. There are 5 million of us Colombians living abroad, and we have only one representative. That is wrong. We must change that. We send more than $4 billion to Colombia every year, and we want to be heard,” said Mónica Londoño.

Londoño and Gloria Blas approached elected Congressman Juan Vélez to ask him not just to work to reinstate the lost seat but also to increase the number of representatives.

The official, who will take office on July 20, offered to introduce a bill to reinstate the seat that was taken away, an action that was not part of his campaign platform.

“I hope to get one more seat for Colombians abroad at the legislative chamber, and two or three more after that,” Vélez told Reporte Hispano.

However, other Colombians like Gloria Blas believe that even two congressional members are not enough.

“We think that there needs to be one representative for every million living abroad. So, for 5 million Colombians abroad, we should have five representatives,” replied Blas.

According to the Colombian Congress’ voting records, former representative for Colombians abroad Jaime Buenahora was the president of the reform committee that cut down the number of representatives for expatriates.

On the other hand, Buenahora is also responsible for the law that allowed extending voting days from 1 to 6 for Colombians casting a ballot abroad.

Before leaving his seat, Buenahora told the press that extending voting days had not resulted in an increase in the number of Colombians voting from abroad. Maybe now will be the time.

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