Pandemic and Executive Powers in Colombia: A Problem and a Modest Proposal

The way in which the events surrounding the pandemic in Colombia have unfolded, and the measures taken so far by the executive branch have led us, once again, to think about presidential powers: their scope, extent and limits. The first question we ask ourselves is: what kind of powers does the executive branch exercise when it orders measures such as national mandatory self-confinement? Perhaps in the midst of uncertainty and fear it seems natural to us that mayors, governors and ultimately the President have decided to confine us to our homes under threat of a fine if we don’t follow the precise guidelines of the various decrees and administrative acts. But such power and restriction of our freedom is a matter of concern that we must examine closely. We must also pay attention to the institutional mechanisms that are being deployed to deal with the crisis. In the current situation, not only does the what in the decision matter (i.e., mandatory self-confinement measures), but also the who and the how (i.e., whether the decisions are adopted by mayors, governors or the President – and, in the latter case, if the President does it through exceptional or ordinary powers).

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