EspañolGustavo Petro has described the decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to dismiss him as mayor of Bogotá as “a coup against the citizen’s vote.” Yesterday afternoon, Santos signed a decree ratifying the decision of Attorney General Alejandro Orgoñez and appointed Labor Minister Rafael Pardo as the new interim mayor in charge of the capital.
Santos proceeded with the dismissal, despite that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had granted precautionary measures on behalf of Petro last Wednesday. According to the international organization, the decision of the Public Ministry goes against the inter-American convention signed by Colombia, which prohibits the dismissal of a popularly elected official by administrative decision and not by court order. Therefore, according to the agency, with the implementation of the disciplinary action, the Colombian state would be violating the political rights of the now-former mayor of Bogotá.
Santos justified his decision not to abide by the precautionary measures from the IACHR by describing the judgment as “complementary and alternative … It should only operate in the event of malfunctioning or breakdown in the internal system,” he said. “Colombian justice has not only acted, but it has done so in a transparent, efficient, and timely manner.”
Similarly, Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín rejected the intervention of an international body like the the IACHR, saying “it cannot decide or ask us to decide when the Colombian justice system is functioning normally.”
Holguín said that one cannot rightfully allege disrespect, because the Colombian government is not bound by the decisions of the IACHR: “Precautionary measures are not mandates towards states; for this reason, they are not obligatory, and for this same reason the Commission ‘requests’ the country, and doesn’t say it ‘must comply’ or that it ‘is required’ to.”
The decision to dismiss Petro stems from irregularities in the implementation of a new model for public cleaning in Bogotá. This placed the cleaning of the whole city in the hands of the state, and left out private companies, called private “mafias” by Petro. However, flaws in the scheme led to Assistant Attorney General Juan Carlos Novoa Buendía carrying out an investigation and describing it as a risk to the environment and health of the citizens of Bogotá.
After hearing Santos’s decision, the ousted mayor said: “The president lied. I think things are quite evident and it’s good that they are.” He also advocated the launching of a national constituent assembly and called on his followers to join the “resistance,” because “civil guarantees are non-existent in Colombia.” According to him, “voting in Colombia is worthless.”
In a speech from Bolívar Square, Petro announced he would start a tour of the country to convene citizen mobilizations, and to protest in the popular districts of the city to demand a change in the constitution.
“I wasn’t born in a generation accustomed to kneel before the oligarchy.… I invite you to begin this journey for the transformation of Colombia.”
Officials of the district’s cabinet submitted their irrevocable resignation, out of respect for Petro, and announced they will support him in the struggle for the restoration of his political rights.
According to Law 1475 of 2011, the national government has 55 days to convene the citizens to new municipal elections. With this constraint, the elections for the new mayor of Bogotá will be close to the date of the first round of presidential elections, scheduled for May 25.