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Colombia Leader Imposes State of Emergency

August 17, 1995| From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — President Ernesto Samper on Wednesday imposed a state of emergency that he said is needed to stem a wave of violent crime. But opposition leaders decried it as an attempt to silence them during Colombia's highest-reaching political scandal.

"My constitutional duty to seek peace is as clear and as firm as that of maintaining order," Samper said in a nationally broadcast speech. He said his Cabinet had approved the decree.

Under the 90-day state of emergency, Samper can push through laws without Congress' approval. The government can also restrict publication of news that it deems a threat to public order.

Some members of Congress questioned Samper's motives.

"It's a [state of] emergency for a president who seeks to silence the press and the Congress," said Rep. Pablo Victoria, a member of the opposition Conservative Party.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives voted Wednesday to remain in Samper's coalition government.

Several opposition figures have called for Samper's resignation following testimony that his 1994 election campaign accepted millions of dollars from drug traffickers. Fernando Botero Jr., who headed the election campaign, was arrested Tuesday for his alleged role in seeking the money. Both he and Samper have denied the allegations.

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