Embattled Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro finds ally in battle against dismissal
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos turned his back on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro´s plea for help in hanging onto his job, but the former guerrilla leader has found a powerful ally in the government.
National Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre announced the decision to remove Petro – a former guerrilla leader with M-19 – and bar him from politics for 15 years could be overturned if an investigation finds the decision was illegal.
“My position as national prosecutor is not to attack the inspector general nor take the defence of Petro. It is to defend the Constitution,” Montealegre said in an interview with Bogotá newspaper El Tiempo.
Bogotá has seen three massive protests in favour of Petro since Colombia´s Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez announced on Dec. 9 he would remove Petro from office over the mayor´s move to remove lucrative garbage collection contracts from private companies a year ago.
Montealgre called on Santos to delay Petro´s removal from office. He said his office is examining the process and evidence Ordóñez used to reach his conclusion that the former guerrilla leader should be removed from office.
Many question whether Ordóñez had the constitutional right to remove the mayor and charged his motives were political. Ordóñez opposes the peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas underway in Havana, Cuba, which could allow guerrillas to return to civilian politics if they give up their arms as did Petro and other former M-19 guerrillas in the late 1980s.
Petro has refused to give up his office without a fight. He has appealed to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to intervene, but the president has steered clear of becoming embroiled in the dispute.
Petro also travelled to Washington, D.C. last week where he met with Democratic congressmen and made his case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It appears the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights could intervene on Petro´s behalf, but the process is one which could take years.
The constitutional crisis has also resulted in a rare turn of events that had Colombia´s FARC guerrillas and the U.S. agreeing on a critical Colombian political issue.
Both newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker and the FARC peace negotiators issued statements that removing a democratically elected mayor – who gave up armed struggle in return for the right to participate politically – could have severe consequences on current peace negotiations.
The FARC and Colombian government negotiators agreed in November on a proposal which would allow FARC guerrillas participate in Colombian politics if an overall peace agreement can be reached.
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