BOGOTA, Colombia – Everyone deserves a vacation — even a head of state.
But President Juan Manuel Santos' support for legislation granting him some downtime is rubbing many Colombians the wrong way.
"It's incredible that in Colombia there's no stipulated vacation for the president," Santos said in a TV interview Monday as his compatriots were enjoying the final day of a long holiday weekend coinciding with the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas.
Allies in Colombia's congress are taking note.
Sen. Efrain Cepeda said he plans to introduce a bill this week that would grant the president the same 15 work days off annually all employees are entitled to under Colombian law. Currently the only way for a sitting president to take a break is to request a leave of absence from the Senate, a move reserved for cases of severe illness.
"The level of stress and his demanding work schedule make a vacation absolutely necessary," Cepeda told The Associated Press, saying he worries about Santos' health as he tries to negotiate an end to a 50-year-old conflict with Marxist guerrillas.
But this a country where 55 percent of the population works under the table without such benefits and the plea by Santos, the scion of one of Colombia's richest families, appears to be falling flat.
"He was elected to work, not to take vacation," said Julian Villamil, a 33-year-old who scrapes by, without vacation, selling sweets and loose cigarettes on a busy Bogota street corner.