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Backgrounds: Colombia Government
Colombia's present Constitution, enacted in July 1991, strengthened the administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an accusatory system that will ultimately replace the existing Napoleonic Code. Other significant reforms under the new Constitution provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, the election of a vice president, and the election of departmental governors. The Constitution expanded citizens' basic rights, including that of "tutela," under which an immediate court action can be requested by an individual, if he/she feels that his/her constitutional rights are being violated, and there is no other legal recourse. The national government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as an independent Attorney General (fiscal) elected for a 4-year term by the Congress. The president is elected for a 4-year term and cannot be re-elected. The 1991 Constitution reestablished the position of vice president, who is elected on the same ticket as the president. By law, the vice president will succeed in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death.
Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multimember districts co-located within the 32 national departments.
The country's capital is a separate district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session, if required. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, adversarial system. The judicial branch's general structure is composed of four distinct jurisdictions (civilian, administrative, constitutional and special). Colombia's highest judicial bodies include the co-equal Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council. This sometimes leads to conflicting opinions since there is no court which has clear authority over the decisions of the other three.
Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.
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