Colombia scolds newly appointed U.S. ambassador for critical comments about´coup´against Petro


The newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Colombia found himself agreeing with the FARC, Colombia´s largest rebel army, and the government of this troubled South American nation is not pleased.

(Photo: David Hogben) Tens of thousands began winding their way towards Bogotás Plaza de Bolívar in a massive public demonstration to fight back against a right-wing coup against Mayor Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla leader who turned to peaceful politics.

(Photo: David Hogben) Tens of thousands began winding their way towards Bogotás Plaza de Bolívar in a massive public demonstration to fight back against a right-wing coup against Mayor Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla leader who turned to peaceful politics.

The rare breach in Colombia-U.S. relations erupted after newly appointed ambassador Kevin Whitaker said during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that the shocking dismissal of Bogota´s Mayor Gustavo Petro could severely damage the prospects of Colombia negotiating a peace accord which could end 50 years of armed combat.

Whitaker said tossing the democratically elected mayor – purportedly for restructuring Bogotá´s private sector garbage collection services – would harm the chances of reaching a similar agreement with the FARC guerrillas who are considering exchanging their rifles, bombs and landmines for the opportunity to participate in elections.

Such a move, if allowed to stand, could “erode” confidence in the peace negotiations, Whitaker said. Petro and other leaders of the M-19 guerrilla organization exchanged their guns for the right to participate in politics in the late 1980´s. They have served as an example of the change that can be made through peaceful politics, especially after Petro was elected mayor of Bogotá in 2010.

M-19 has not reverted to violence even after their first presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro was assassinated in 1990.

María Ángela Holguín, of Colombia´s department of external relations, fired back at the U.S. on Thursday. She suggested the U.S. should refrain from making public comments about internal Colombian politics.

“It´s good that ambassadors from whatever country know not to offer opinions about internal affairs (of other countries), especially about decisions by organs of control,” she said in reference to Whitaker´s comments.

Bogotá has been the scene of two marches since Inspector-General, Alejandro Ordoñez announced this week that he would use his controversial powers to toss Petro from office and prohibit him from running for any elected office for 15 years. Friday´s march is expected to be the largest, after Petro asked supporters to stage the largest public demonstration in the history of Bogotá.

FARC guerrillas and Colombian government negotiators last month reached an agreement which would allow the FARC guerrillas to run for political office, if a general peace accord can be reached to end the conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of Colombians from their homes.

The streets of Bogotá were filling Friday afternoon as thousands of citizens converged on Plaza de Bolívar. Throngs of protesters converged on the city centre after starting marches from 19 different locations.

Petro is using the growing public support and a variety of legal tactics in an attempt to hang onto his job and salvage his political career. He has invoked the name of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán who was also tossed from the Bogotá mayor´s office by right-wing opponents before he was assassinated on a street only blocks away from where the protest to support Petro will occur in a few hours. The Gaitán assassination some 65 years ago ignited waves of violence and contributed to the birth of the FARC.

For more information please read, in English: http://elheraldo.co/nacional/embajador-de-eeuu-no-puede-opinar-de-asuntos-internos-canciller-holguin-135704

in Spanish: http://elheraldo.co/nacional/embajador-de-eeuu-no-puede-opinar-de-asuntos-internos-canciller-holguin-135704

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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.

One response to “Colombia scolds newly appointed U.S. ambassador for critical comments about´coup´against Petro”

  1. colombiadiaries says :

    Refreshing to hear a US ambassador criticise the ousting of a left-wing politician. The Colombian government didn’t seem to object to ‘Plan Colombia’, the damaging ‘war on drugs’ fumigations or US military bases in Colombia – all of which could and should have been vehemently opposed by any government concerned for the welfare of its people, yet they now object to this much milder ‘interference’ in their affairs – speaks volumes.

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