Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia bill aims to tackle politicians' absenteeism

General view during the installation of the new Congress (2014-2018) at the Capitol in Bogota, Colombia, on July 20, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Absenteeism is rife in Colombia's Congress

A bill aiming to punish absenteeism in Colombia's Congress has passed a key first stage, two days after a debate on it was cancelled because not enough lawmakers were present.

The bill proposes cutting the salaries of lawmakers who fail to attend congressional sessions.

The measures had been due to be discussed on Tuesday, but absences meant there was no quorum.

The bill will now go to the wider assembly.

The Senator who proposed the bill, Alfredo Rangel, said: "This bill is not against members of Congress, it's for the good of Congress, against absenteeism and in favour of its legitimacy and efficiency."

As well as penalising absent lawmakers, the bill proposes that members of Congress produce a doctor's note if they miss sessions because of sickness.

If the bill is passed, repeat offenders who miss six or more sessions without a valid reason will be stripped of their mandate.

Absenteeism is a serious problem among Colombia's politicians, with bills often failing because they are not discussed in the allotted time-frame because of a lack of quorum.

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