In a decision that could widely affect the May presidential election, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed the previous decision of Colombian inspector-general Alejandro Ordóñez to remove Gustavo Petro, a leftist and former M-19 rebel leader, as Bogotá’s mayor.
Ordóñez, a staunchly right-wing conservative close to former president Álvaro Uribe, ordered Petro’s removal last December on the questionable basis of Petro’s actions during a garbage collection strike in December 2012. Ordóñez claimed that Petro’s threat to replace public workers with private garbage collectors amounted to abuse of office. In addition to Petro’s removal, Ordóñez also banned Petro from holding public office for 15 years.
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Petro, who was facing an April 6 recall election in any event, appealed Ordóñez’s decision, but the Colombian Council of State refused to overturn it. Santos affirmed Petro’s removal today, naming labor minister Rafael Pardo as Bogotá’s interim mayor, despite an order from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission upholding Petro’s right to remain mayor. Accordingly, Santos’s decision could potentially endanger Colombia’s seat within the Organization of American States.
Presumably, Bogotá residents will go to the polls later this spring or summer to choose Petro’s permanent replacement.
In the meanwhile, Santos’s decision leaves him vulnerable on at least three fronts as the May 25 presidential election approaches. Santos appears increasingly likely to face a June 15 presidential runoff, against either former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa or former finance minister and Uribe ally Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the candidate of Uribe’s newly formed politics vehicle, Centro Democrático (Democratic Center). Continue reading Three reasons why Petro’s removal as Bogotá mayor could harm Santos