Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro calls for permanent protests if removed from office


Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro raised the possibility of permanent protests if Colombia´s inspector general goes ahead and fires him from office.

(Photo: Canal Capital) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro called for his supporters to protest indefinitely if he is removed from office as threatened in a controversial decision by Colombia´s inspector general.

(Photo: Canal Capital) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro called for his supporters to protest indefinitely if he is removed from office as threatened in a controversial decision by Colombia´s inspector general.

“We need to gather for the largest protest in the history of Bogotá – which will be permanent – on the day that the prosecutor ratifies his arbitrary decision,” Petro said Friday night in a fiery, defiant speech in Bogotá´s Plaza de Bolívar.

Petro attacked Colombia´s Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez for firing him for alleged mismanagement of the city´s garbage collection systems.

Ordóñez claimed Petro – a former M-19 guerrilla leader turned politician – endangered the health of Bogotá residents and violated principles of free market economics when he brought garbage collection into the public sphere in December 2012.

Friday´s protest was the fourth massive demonstration by Petro supporters since it was announced in December that he would be removed from office.

Petro challenged Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to allow Bogotá voters to decide whether he keeps his job. Petro also faces a vote in early March as the result of a recall campaign his opponents have organized in another attempt to remove him from office.

Petro – who made his mark in Colombian politics exposing massive corruption and government connections with paramilitaries – charged his opponents are attempting to toss him from office so they can resume their corruption.

In an apparent reference to Ordóñez´s strict Catholic beliefs which often guide his decisions, Petro charged his opponents want “government officials who in the day kneel and pray in front of the Virgin Mary and in the evening sign contracts with the mafia.”

He said the battle was not to protect his personal career – which includes a ban from politics for 15 years – but to protect Colombian democracy.

“That is why we need to gather for the largest protest in the history of Bogotá – which will be permanent – on the day that the prosecutor ratifies his arbitrary decision.”

He repeated allegations that the private garbage contractors ordered employees to leave tons of garbage in the street to sabotage his plan to have public collection.

Colombia´s national prosecutor now is investigating those allegations and that the Ordóñez met secretly with Petro´s enemies so they could prepare to replace Petro even before he made his disciplinary decision public.

Petro is fighting his removal on a number of fronts. He has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to overturn the decision. And he has also unsuccessfully asked Santos to intervene, and unsuccessfully challenged Ordóñez´s right to hear decide his appeal.

Petro on many occasions suggested the battle to control Bogotá would impact Colombia nationally.

“If they can do this in Bogotá, what will happen in the rest of the country?” Petro asked the crowd of tens of thousands.

“What they are removing is democracy and liberty,” Petro said. “It´s not Petro´s problem, it´s the democracy that we need to save.”

Petro suggested Ordóñez could sign the order removing him as mayor as early as next week “believing he is following the law of god.” Ordóñez has also been a rigid opponent of gay rights and women´s rights to abortion.

The tens of thousands who gathered in Plaza de Bolivár stood in silence for one minute to pay their respects to Gerson Martínez a hip hop artist, poet , graffiti artist and local Petro organizer who was found murdered last week. Next to his body was a “Bogotá Humana” banner, Petro´s slogan for making Bogotá a safer, better place to live.

Petro did have one certain victory. He was allowed to make his dramatic speech from the palace balcony, despite earlier reports city architects were going to bar him from the historic stage, because of concerns it would not support the weight of he and his entourage.

For more information please read:

In English: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-25692189

In Spanish: http://www.noticiasrcn.com/nacional-bogota/procuraduria-quiere-un-gobierno-corrupto-petro

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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 “Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro calls for permanent protests if removed from office”

  1. colombiadiaries says :

    Thanks for this clear and succinct account. Glad to hear they backed down on the balcony fiasco. Let’s hope reason and justice will prevail in the overall situation – so much is at stake. PetroSeQueda.

  2. Connecting Colombias says :

    Perhaps it’s Petro’s last balcony appearance, but it seemed a little suspcious that they would ban him and not just do a little work to improve the situation. It was an immense speech, powerful and stirring. Well, we shall see soon what impact it might have. Many people are supporting him, but whether there will be enough public pressure to move President Santos is difficult to know.

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