More than 10 weeks after news broke that Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro was to be fired, the tenacious former guerrilla leader is still hanging on to Colombia´s second most important elected position.
(Photo: Liliana Campo) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has used the courts and populist appeals to prevent his removal as mayor since a controversial ruling in early December that he be fired and banned from public office for 15 years.
Though his grip sometimes seems tenuous, Petro received more support Thursday from an international human rights organization.
Allowing Petro to be fired for alleged mismanagement of Bogotá´s garbage collection would contravene international agreements on human rights, the Center for Justice and International Law stated in a letter signed by executive director Viviana Krsticevic.
The letter was sent to the court hearing claims that Petro´s human rights would be violated by his removal stated that human rights include political rights. Those hearings have until now prevented Petro´s removal.
“Citizens should enjoy not only rights but also of ‘opportunities’. The latter term implies an obligation to take positive measures to ensure that any person who holds such formal political rights, have a real opportunity to exercise those rights,” the letter stated.
Petro´s multi-pronged defence has included appeals to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights and to various Colombian courts that claim a publicly elected official like he is can only be removed from office if they have been found guilty of an offence by a judge.
The controversial decision by Colombia´s Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez that Petro be removed from office and banned for 15 years found only that he had purportedly mismanaged a restructuring of the capital´s garbage collection which resulted in poor service for less than a week in December 2012.
Ordóñez claimed removing the contracts from the private sector damaged free enterprise and the poor service endangered the health of Bogotá residents. Petro has countered that there was a conspiracy of private collectors designed to create problems with the restructuring, so they could attempt to remove him from office.
Petro had rallied his forces for a scheduled recall vote on March 2 that had been engineered by his opponents. Petro had hoped to use a victory in the recall to further argue his removal would be undemocratic.
But the recall has been delayed, perhaps illegally, until April 6. Petro supporters argue the delay favours Petro´s opponents who hope to remove the mayor before the votes if his legal appeals fail.
Petro has consistently polled strongly since the political crisis that has gripped Colombia throughout the 2014 presidential and congressional election campaigns. Recent polls said he was Colombia´s most popular mayor.
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