Protesters fill Bogotá streets after Petro removed in garbage ´coup,´ banned for 15 years
Bogotá´s leftist Mayor Gustavo Petro was toppled Monday by Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez in a move that sent thousands of angry protesters into the streets.
Ordóñez also forbid Petro from holding any public office in Colombia for 15 years.
Petro was turfed from office over his alleged mismanagement of the city´s garbage collection, but protesters and analysts said his removal had more to do with politics than mismanagement of garbage collection.
Petro said described the 15-year-prohibition as a “life sentence”.
“Here a message is being sent to the nation, to all mayors, that attempts to take back public power is a crime, a felony or an irregularity.”
Petro – a former M-19 guerrilla leader – removed the garbage collection from private collectors and turned it over to public workers. He also improved conditions for the recyclers who work the streets of Bogotá.
Ordóñez claimed he removed Petro from office because he allegedly violated free enterprise regulations by giving the contracts to city workers and he endangered the health of Bogotá residents as garbage was not properly collected in the first week.
Petro served time in prison for his M-19 activities. But when he was elected mayor of Bogotá in 2011 it was seen as a sign that the left could renounce armed revolutionary struggle and change Colombia through politics. Petro held true to this position of renouncing violence when M-19 turned over its weapons and returned to public life, even though the party´s first presidential candidate was assassinated.
Many doubted Ordóñez´s motives. Ordóñez is an outspoken opponent of peace negotiations in Colombia.
He earlier removed one of Colombia´s best known and controversial leftist politicians Senator Piedad Córdoba. He removed Córdoba from office in September 2010 over alleged links between her and the guerrilla rebels the FARC. Córdoba´s name and information linking her to the FARC were reportedly found in a laptop computer the government obtained from a FARC leader owned by FARC leader Raul Reyes, who was killed in a bombing attack against rebels hiding across the border in Ecuador.
Córdoba had earlier been responsible for the release of a number of FARC hostages when she negotiated on behalf of then President Álvaro Uribe.
She is appealing her ban from public office, but chances are slim the powerful former senator will be permitted to run in next year´s elections.
Despite being removed from office and banned from political participation for 18 years, Córdoba was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for her efforts.
Many are now questioning whether the removal of Petro from public office will impact peace negotiations with the FARC. The FARC have agreed on a process to return to public, political life, if a peace agreement can be reached to end some 50 years of armed political violence.
Colombian Justice Minister Alfonso Gomez Mendez said the removal of Petro demonstrated the need for constitutional reform.
“We have to revise the constitutional norm that allows the removal of an official chosen by popular vote,” Mr Gomez told reporters.
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