Desperate Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro apparently banned from palace balcony


It wasn´t enough that they fired Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, and banned him from public office for 15 years. Now it seems they´ve banned him from the palace balcony.

(Photo: Liliana Campo Granados) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has apparently been banned from using the dramatic backdrop afforded by the balcony of the Palacio Liévano for a critical speech this Friday. The former guerrilla leader turned politician is rally public suport in the fight for his political life.

(Photo: Liliana Campo) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro works the crowd in Bogota’s Plaza de Bolívar as he battles an attempt to toss him from office. The former guerrilla leader turned politician used the balcony backdrop for three previous rallies, but has now been advised the balcony is unsafe.

Petro´s office received the internal memo from the city´s Emergency Preparation and Response office in late December that said the balcony was in risk of collapse and could hardly support 100 kilograms per cubic meter.

That is the same elegant Palacio Liévano balcony where Bogotá´s desperate mayor was this Friday expecting to make one of those most critical speeches of his political career. Petro will attempt to attract and rally tens of thousands of citizens to support his fight to hang onto his job, or as he puts it join the battle for “democracy and peace”.

Petro has used the balcony at the palace, which serves as Bogotá City Hall, for the first three rallies.

It will be the fourth such public demonstration in Bogotá´s Plaza de Bolívar since early December when Colombia´s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez gave notice that the mayor would be evicted and banned for office for 15 years. The reasons, Ordoñez said, were Petro´s radical changes to Bogotá´s garbage collection services. Ordoñez said Petro violated free market principles and endangered public health in the capital when contracts were removed from private collectors and mountains of garbage went uncollected for a few days.

Petro and many others have argued the crisis was a conspiracy that included those same private contractors as well as the mayor´s political enemies, who also happen to be Ordoñez allies. Petro has accumulated many powerful enemies in his careers: first as a M-19 guerrilla leader then as a corruption-fighting congressman who led the campaign to expose paramilitary infiltration of Colombian politics.

Petro visited Washington, D.C. last month where he met with Democratic congressmen and made his case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The human rights commission could be Petro´s best chance at obtaining an impartial hearing. But the commission´s investigation and decision are likely years away from producing a result.

That means Petro´s job as Bogotá mayor – commonly referred to as the second most powerful political post in Colombia – would be long gone. If all else fails, the commission could help Petro, once considered a strong presidential possibility, to resurrect his career without serving the full 15-year-ban, something he has referred to as a life sentence.

Petro has also appealed Ordoñez´s ruling against him. This could buy him enough time to hang onto his job, possibly until the end of February. But the appeal seems stacked heavily against Petro.

A basic fundamental of justice, to have an appeal heard by a disinterested, impartial judge, doesn´t exist in this situation. The Colombian system calls for Ordoñez to hear the appeal against his own ruling, a ruling widely condemned as undemocratic, extreme and politically motivated.

Even those who are not Petro supporters have spoken out against the ruling.

Petro´s best hope for salvation from inside Colombia appears to be National Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre who is examining both the evidence behind Ordoñez´s decision and whether it was lawful.

Petro also faces a recall vote in early March. Before the battle with Ordoñez, it appeared he could lose that vote, but with support rallying to his side since his announced ouster, the recall vote seems a small risk to Petro´s future.

Now the pressure is on him to see if he can still attract tens of thousands into the Plaza de Bolívar on Friday to demonstrate his cause still strikes a cord with Colombians. If he cannot, his short-term political future is bleak.

On top of it all, Petro will have to make the speech of his life, perhaps without the dramatic backdrop of the Palacio Liévano. Bogotá newspaper El Espectador´s coverage of Petro´s balcony-banning emphasized the importance of the balcony-setting in South American politics, and ran photos of classic speeches by the likes of Eva Perón and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in its Sunday edition.

For more information please read: http://davidhogben.com/2013/12/15/petro-says-only-colombias-president-santos-can-fire-him-from-office/

And in Spanish: http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-13310595.html

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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.

4 responses to “Desperate Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro apparently banned from palace balcony”

  1. Keri Langley says :

    Mayor Petro could switch places with Mayor Ford of Toronto. Seriously, because the balcony safety issue would make sense. Meanwhile, in Toronto, Petro could make reforms and know his job would be ultra safe.

    Seriously David, thanks for expanding my world view. Love reading your articles.

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      Odd how a corruption-fighting mayor gets out of office in Colombia, while an out-of-control Canadian continues on his own bizarre path. It´s usually best to let the people decide, even when they do not do so intelligently. Thanks for reading and thanks for the compliment.

  2. colombiadiaries says :

    Thanks for the clear update. It is bizarre that Ordoñez is the one to hear Petro’s appeal against him. Let’s hope Montealegre can show that his decision was illegal. You make interesting points about the importance of the balcony setting. PetroNoSeVa.

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      Yes and it appears Ordoñez is also the one who decides whether it´s appropiraite or not for him to hear the appeal. And it looks like he´s fine with that. Hope the rally today is peaceful and has some influence on this bizarre form of political injustice.

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