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.
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/