Members of Colombia's Congress reacted angrily Saturday to an agreement between three political parties to dissolve the legislature and hold early general elections. One said it was a coup. ``This is unheard of. There is no precedent for this. It amounts to a coup d''etat against the legislative branch of public power,'' Conservative Sen. Hugo Escobar Sierra told local radio.
Other politicians criticized extensive interim powers given to President C'esar Gaviria Trujillo. Conservative former Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo said the country would submit to a dictatorship.
President Gaviria and leaders of his Liberal Party, the former guerrilla group M-19, and the conservative Movement for National Salvation - known by the Spanish acronym MNS - agreed after hours of talks Saturday to support the dissolution of Congress and general elections on Oct. 6, 1991, two-and-a-half years early.
Members of the two houses of Congress were elected in March 1990 and should have carried on until March 1994.
Under the agreement, the new Congress will take office Feb. 2, 1992. Until then Gaviria will effectively rule by decree with assistance from an 18-member committee elected by an assembly reforming Colombia's constitution.
To take effect, the agreement has to be approved by the constituent assembly. But that is a foregone conclusion since the three parties involved control 54 of the 70 seats in the assembly, whose decisions cannot be overturned.
The agreement is a response to pressure from M-19 and the MNS to elect a new Congress once the new constitution is finished on July 5. They want a symbolic new start, cutting short the old Congress which they see as rooted in the past and suffering from abuses.
M-19 and MNS, both new parties, are strong in the constituent assembly but have few seats in Congress, which is dominated by the traditional Liberal and Conservative parties.
The accord marks a reversal by the Liberal Party, which previously opposed dissolution of Congress.