Ouster of Bogotá Mayor Petro Gustavo turns U.S., FARC into apparent, momentary allies


It’s not every day the U.S. government comes down on the same side of an argument as Colombia´s FARC guerrillas, but the sacking of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro over poor garbage service has the two looking a little like allies.

Tens of thousands rallied for Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro in La Plaza de Bolívar on Tuesday after what appears to have been a politically motivated dismissal.

(Photo: Canal Capital) Tens of thousands rallied for Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro in La Plaza de Bolívar on Tuesday after what appears to have been a politically motivated dismissal.

After Petro – a former M-19 guerrilla leader who was imprisoned and tortured in his previous incarnation – was sacked as the Bogotá mayor on Monday over alleged poor garbage collection in Colombia´s biggest city, the FARC decried the damage done to the peace process currently being negotiated in Havana, Cuba.

The FARC described the move as “another serious blow to the peace process in Havana, which affects trust and credibility.”
Now the newly nominated U.S. ambassador to Colombia is making similar statements.
Kevin Whitaker said in his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that the turfing of Petro could erode confidence in the peace process.
“For me there’s a fundamental concern, and it has to do with political pluralism. Colombia is involved in a process to learn to solve its internal conflict, and it’s not a coincidence that the second point on the agenda was political pluralism, how to incorporate oneself into a legal democratic process with individuals who disarm from the left.”
“If individuals in Colombia conclude, based on this decision, or another, that this space does not exist, then the basic conditions for peace could somehow erode,” Whitaker said.

M-19 gave up its armed struggle against Colombia´s elite in the late 1980s. In return for handing over its weapons its members received pardons and the right to participate in politics. Even when its first presidential candidate was assassinated, they stuck strictly to their political guns.

That Petro was elected Bogotá mayor in January 2012 was evidence for many Colombians that M-19 made the right move.

Now that Petro has been ousted in what he and others are calling a “coup” many doubt whether politics really is an option for the left in Colombia. Even many of his political opponents say his removal and banishment from politics for 15 years was an overreaction, possibly unconstitutional and politically motivated.

More evidence is mounting daily that his removal was orchestrated by the extreme right, who are enemies of the peace process and victims of Petro´s anti-corruption campaigns.

Certainly FARC negotiators in Havana and those still fighting in the mountains and jungles might be wondering what chance they really have of changing Colombia if they give up their guns and return to politics.

In November, the FARC and Colombian government negotiators reached agreement on an accord which would allow FARC members to turn, and in some cases return, to political life if they can reach a general peace agreement.

Now they are wondering if peaceful tactics really can prevail in Colombia.

Petro has not yet given up on retaining his position as Bogotá mayor. He has called on Colombians to amass in the biggest demonstration in the history of Bogotá.

For more information, please read:In Spanish: http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/proximo-embajador-de-eeuu-colombia-cuestiona-destitucio-articulo-463550

http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/sancion-petro-grave-golpe-contra-el-proceso-de-paz-farc-articulo-463318

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About Connecting Colombias

Recently retired newspaper reporter with one foot in British Columbia, Canada, the other in Colombia, South America. Fascinated with Colombian culture, Canadian connections, and heroic efforts to return millions of displaced Colombians to lands stolen by paramilitaries, guerrillas and organized crime.

3 responses to “Ouster of Bogotá Mayor Petro Gustavo turns U.S., FARC into apparent, momentary allies”

  1. colombiadiaries says :

    Great coverage of the situation, and balanced as always. The ‘garbage coup’ doesn’t bode well for the peace process. The FARC and a US ambassador making the same points is ironic indeed, especially given the US coolness to the peace process. I wonder if anyone in Washington will rein him in – I hope not. His attitude of refreshing.

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      Yes, it’s not every day we see the U.S. and the FARC agreeing on anything important. To me that speaks loudly. As far as Kevin Whitaker being reined it, I did see one report in the Colombian press that had a U.S. official “clarifying” his comments. It was not a radical change, just meant to emphasize he did not want to interfere, but wanted to support democracy and Colombian institutions. It appears that there is reason to hope that the U.S. will continue with limited changes in its Colombian which could be beneficial here. This could be so important for Colombia’s future, one can only hope so.

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