Néstor Osuna (Bogotá, 60 years old) is one of the most clearly liberal ministers of the Government of Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president of Colombia.
Academic, expert in Constitutional Law and close to the judicial branch, this technician in his area reaches one of the most visible portfolios and with less room for maneuver in the country, that of justice.
Osuna receives EL PAÍS in his apartment, days before his inauguration as minister and even before having gone to the Ministry offices for the first time, but with clear and progressive proposals for justice.
In terms of justice, reform is the main idea of this Government.
But you have said that it is not similar to those of the last ten years.
What is the proposal?
The idea is to make all the reforms that are needed to bring justice closer to the citizens, in the sense that it is a cheaper, faster justice that ensures that the citizen receives a response to a claim.
Usually the effort has focused on the possibility of presenting the claim with justice houses, places to present the complaints, formats to do so.
That's important, but then there's no answer.
This ease of filing must be intensified, but access to justice cannot be just a mailbox for complaints, but a quick response from the justice system that does not remain a formality, that is substantive.
That sounds ideal, that you quickly resolve the conflict that I am asking the justice system to resolve.
But how do you do it?
Overcoming ritualism, as does the guardianship action.
It is being thought, in a draft, that instead of people presenting their claims and then the judge practicing the evidence, the parties bring their claim in a complete package, with the claim and its annexes.
For example, explaining that the request is based on this document, or on the testimony of which the recording is here.
That he then transfers it to the counterpart so that he sends his documents, and that's it.
Nothing to review the demand, ask them to correct it, nothing.
Let's say, there are more complicated issues that cannot be resolved in days, but with the philosophy of focusing on the fact that the judge has to make a decision.
Alternative justice mechanisms must also be strengthened.
Much has been done to serve to admit conflicts, but not to resolve them.
For that you need
How to break ritualism?
When the tutela action began to be applied with the 1991 Constitution, it seemed very strange that it was done without a lawyer.
Nobody is surprised today.
The courts have continued to function, the judges understand guardianship claims very well even though they don't have the formalities, so that can be done.
The conflicts of daily life can be resolved by an official who knows the administration of justice and who is versed in law, without the parties having to have legal representation.
That proposal is not going to please the lawyers...
Yes, but I think it has to be done.
That does not prevent a person from wanting to hire a lawyer, of course, nor to have much more offer of free subsidized legal services, although there is a budget shortage.
It is time to think of a combination of public defenders or similar things, with more processes in which a lawyer is not needed.
So let colleagues rethink their social role.
Would justice work like this?
A guardianship from about 20 years ago, very famous, shows that it is.
One person complained that anyone could access the internet and, with someone's identity card number, they could access their social security data and real estate registry to find out what properties they owned and collect the data for an express kidnapping.
He did not say what he wanted, nor did he direct the lawsuit against anyone.
But the judge who saw her understood: he said that it was not against the thieves but against those who managed the web pages of social security and the registration of public instruments.
And with that he made a decision, which the Constitutional Court reviewed and turned into a key sentence of the right to habeas data.
It is an example of how judges have learned to understand how people speak, how they write.
But doesn't a lawsuit filed by a lawyer make it easier for you?
Probably, but in cases that are not the interpretation of a contract or the breach of a public work, which are much more complex, it is possible to make this type of approach.
That would apply to civil, family, commercial and criminal problems?
There the Government is determined not to continue with the policy of punitive populism that has prevailed in these years, and not to spend more on prisons.
Today there is an overcrowding of around 20%
Yes. It is not easy to have the exact figures because they change daily, but there are about 97 thousand people in prisons and about 30 thousand in police stations.
So, on the one hand, and with money always scarce, they would seek to make living conditions more dignified and have a release policy.
It is not to make an amnesty but to look at what crimes should not be in the Penal Code or to seek that, within their autonomy, the judges apply the benefits that already exist.
As far as the Government is concerned, we will seek to implement some administrative and legal reforms so that some people who do not have to be in jail get out.
Prison is useless or very little.
I dare to say that it only serves the spirit of revenge, which one can understand, but it is not useful.
How to fight against punitive populism?
Making citizens think about what a prison is for, what ours are like.
Let them see on television that there are criminals – because corruption is very serious, as is insecurity – but that there are, above all, very poor people who have committed minor crimes.
Being there does not prevent them from committing crimes again, perhaps if we had prisons with a better educational system or something like that.
In this line, congressmen allied with the Government promote the release of young people who were in the protests and who are being prosecuted for crimes such as terrorism or damage to another's property.
There are legal reforms that must go through Congress and they are not short-term measures because a law does not come out quickly.
Then, respecting with all pleasure and commitment the autonomy and independence of the Judiciary, it is possible to suggest –because suggesting is not prohibited– different possibilities of interpretation of the norms, some more prone to freedom and not so much to internment.
Wait for a reconsideration.
You were in the Judiciary.
How to convince judges to abandon formalism or change their interpretations?
With a lot of dialogue, listening.
Much of the Judiciary has the spirit to change the way of doing things.
The judges are so overloaded with work that if you told them “the processes could be resolved in six months”, they would be happy to get the piano of congested processes off their backs.
I think there will be receptivity but also controversy, but that is democracy.
With persuasion, educational effort, political energy.
The relationship also goes through the budget for the branch, or help to achieve international cooperation or more political issues such as the short lists for control bodies.
Will this government seek to change that with a reform?
Every day brings its eagerness and I believe that the reforms that justice requires are not the constitutional regime, with the system of short lists.
Sure, it could work better, but you have to focus on priorities without changing the appointment mechanisms.
For years we have been very involved in that, and the judicial delay and the difficulties of access were not touched.
The priority is on the citizens, just as in criminal law it should be on the victims.
Not in punishment?
No. In reparation, in the reunion between the victim and society.
Our system is very well thought out for the aggressor: the punishment he deserves, the guarantees he has.
Thinking about the victims has advanced slowly throughout the world and in Colombia, but it must be deepened.
For example, a medical manager of a hospital allocates money that was to pay the payroll to buy equipment and is convicted of embezzlement for pending application.
Without discussing whether it should be a crime, isn't it better that I do a free consultation social service for six months?
There is a justice that can be more useful to the direct victim, to society and also to the aggressor to correct, to understand society a little more.
At least you have to propose it.
If we manage to solve it, wonderful, but only to get society to start thinking differently,
it is already important, it is the beginning of a legal change, of public policies, but above all a cultural change.
Go from thinking that punishment is important to that reparation is.
Speaking of changes, in the Government of change.
What will the Ministry of Justice do about agrarian reform?
We must strengthen the specialized agrarian jurisdiction, strong, more robust than what we have so far, for which there is a bill that is quite advanced.
Also improve the judicial procedure for land restitution, which takes a long time.
And the multipurpose cadastre also has something to do with justice, because it is necessary for the State and society to be able to know the situation of the properties throughout Colombia.
That serves for territorial planning, for taxes, for trade.
It has to do with justice because the Superintendence of Notaries and Registry is attached to the Ministry, and it is the one that keeps the registry.
Speaking of entities.
Do you already know who will be the superintendent and deputy ministers?
There are no names, but the president's guideline is that they be well-prepared young people, committed to change.
Speaking of names and the change, how is the story of your husband's trio?
It was absolutely spontaneous.
Our relationship is 15 years old and it is public, we have no problem with it being known, we have never hidden it.
But that was being a lawyer, a professor, not a minister.
Neither Mauricio [Arroyave, her husband] had thought about it, nor had I.
I was already in the square when I read the trill, in the middle of such an exciting act, so I answered him right there on Twitter.
I didn't know about the effect until I got here at night.
It was a spontaneous response, of which I am now more proud because of the effect of visibility, of recognition for other people.
Do you represent diversity in the Cabinet?
Or does he represent the Liberal Party?
I'm not sure what the president thought.
I have never been a member of the Liberal Party, although I am close.
When Horacio Serpa was director of the party, before the year 2000, I was a member of the Disciplinary Court of the Liberal Party.
I have never been anything, I have not even been a candidate for the board of this building.
So yes, there has been an ideological affinity, but without electoral militancy or partisan commitments.
But you know the congressmen.
Since I was a candidate for the Constitutional Court in 2017, I met those from that time.
There are a few left, because the Congress was renewed.
But you are in tune with the liberal caucus and you were with the caucus and President Gaviria last week.
Yes, and it was good.
It seems to me that it is correct that there is political representation, and I think it is good that it is visible.
But I think he chose me more because of the Externado, [the university] where he studied and where I am a professor.
It is not incompatible one with the other, but I think that if it was about origin, it has more to do with the university than with the Liberal Party.
So, you represent the liberal.
Is the government liberal?
I think this is an ideologically liberal, social democratic government: state intervention in the economy, redistribution of wealth, progressive.
Not neoliberal or party.
Liberal reformist, or shall we say, left liberal.
And this country needs that, I am convinced.
Is it similar to the Juan Manuel Santos Government?
Compared to what the governments of Iván Duque and Álvaro Uribe have been, of course, this one is more like that of Santos.
But I don't see it as similar.
Of course there are days of Petro, and of Santos it was eight years... but this one is more reformist.
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