Activist´s murder casts pall over march to save Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro from dismissal


The murder of a political activist has cast a pall over today´s march to protest the ouster of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro.

The murder of a Petro activist has raised questions over whether the peaceful, sometimes festive atmosphere can be maintained at today´s rally to save the career of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro and protect the rights of Bogotá voters.

(Photo: David Hogben) The murder of a Petro activist has raised questions over whether the peaceful, sometimes festive atmosphere can be maintained at today´s rally to save the career of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro and protect the rights of Bogotá voters.

More than 100,000 marchers are expected to converge on Colombia´s political centre, the massive Plaza de Bolívar to protest and attempt to overturn the decision to toss Petro – a former M-19 guerrilla leader – from politics for supposed mismanagement of the city garbage collection.

Three previous marches have been peaceful, except for a possible exception when a small bomb was  detonated in an automatic bank teller after one march. Two persons were injured and it was never established whether there was any connection between the blast and the political drama which has rocked Colombia since Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez announced in December he would remove Petro from office.

The body of Gerson Martínez – a Petro supporter and community hip hop activist – was found on Monday. His family said he suffered two bullet wounds. A Bogotá Humana banner, the mayor´s trademark campaign to reduce violence and improve livability in the Colombian capital, was found nearby.

Martínez´s family said the placement of the banner at the death scene indicates a political motive behind the killing.

The thousands who attended the first three marches were well behaved, though angry over the mayor´s dismissal and the attack on their democratic rights.

Despite the indignation, the marches combined political protest with a festive atmosphere which included a Colombian rock music concert, beer vendors and marijuana-smoking activists lobbying for changes in drug laws.

As thousands of additional Bogotá police lined the streets Friday, there was a trace of trepidation absent from the earlier marches.

Petro urged Bogotá residents and thousands expected to attend from other regions to demonstrate in numbers, but peacefully.

“The answer to the assassination and the violence against Bogotá Humana is a grand peaceful mobilization,” Petro wrote in Spanish in his Twitter account.

Petro has filed a number of appeals, internationally and within Colombia in his attempt to hang on to his job and avoid the 15-year ban from public office imposed by Ordoñéz.

If all actions fail, it seems Petro will be removed as mayor before the end of February.

Petro´s removal has been described as an over reaction, unfair and politically motivated. Even many who are not Petro supporters have argued it is damaging to democracy. Both the FARC guerrillas and the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Colombia said they worried about the impact Petro´s dismissal could have on Colombia´s peace process, as the return of guerrillas to Colombian life, including politics, is a critical part of the potential peace-making effort.

Colombia´s national prosecutor is also investigating the decision by Ordoñéz, both the evidence he used to make the judgment and whether he has the powers under the Colombian Constitution to dismiss the mayor.

For more information please read:

In Spanish: http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/asesinado-promotor-de-marcha-defensa-de-petro-articulo-467538

And, in English: http://colombiareports.co/dismissed-bogota-mayor-break-law-report/

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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 “Activist´s murder casts pall over march to save Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro from dismissal”

  1. colombiadiaries says :

    Very sad to hear of Gerson Martínez’s murder. Demonstrators are courageous and inspiring to remain peaceful in such circumstances.

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