International court intervenes in Gustavo Petro´s future, puts President Santos on political hotseat
Just as Bogotá´s embattled Mayor Gustavo Petro ran out of legal options in his fight to hang onto his job, an international human rights court has given him perhaps one last chance.
But whether that last gasp amounts to anything is in the hands of President Juan Manuel Santos, the man who has stayed as distant as possible from the three-month battle between Colombia´s right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez and the former M-19 guerrilla leader turned politician.
Santos has done everything in his power to avoid getting caught in the battle between the pro-Petro and the pro-Ordóñez forces that has raged since Dec. 9, when Ordóñez ordered Petro be fired for purportedly mismanaging Bogotá´s garbage collection system.
Ordóñez not only ordered Petro be removed from office, but ordered he be barred from any public office for 15 years. This would effectively end Petro´s political life, and especially a shot at the presidency in 2018. Some have speculated Ordóñez himself is considering running for the presidency in the same year.
Santos has said repeatedly that he would respect the process in place to deal with the political crisis.
Now that process has dropped the crisis at his door, just as he wages his re-election campaign.
The option of staying out of the fray no longer exists. Santos must take a stand.
The courts turned down the last of Petro´s numerous legal appeals on Tuesday. They ruled the applications claiming the dismissal of an elected official would violate his human rights – political rights – and those of Bogotá electors are not absolute.
The Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, a body of the Organization of American States, last night asked Colombia to delay Petro´s political execution. The CIDH wants Colombia to take the preventive measures of allowing Petro to continue until it has time to determine whether firing Petro is a violation of his and Bogotá voters´rights, based on international law.
The CIDH can take years to make such a determination.
Santos must decide whether he will go along with the CIDH request and allow Petro to retain his office while the process plays iteself out. Or Santos must decide whether to appoint an interim replacement and possibly call an election to replace the ousted mayor.
Whatever he chooses, Santos is in the hot seat. His bid to be re-elected Colombian president on May 25 could swing on how he handles the Petro versus Ordóñez battle.
If he allows Petro to stay, he will arm former president Álvaro Uribe and his supporters who will attempt to profit electorally from the president´s decision. If he insists Petro leave, and ends the long-running battle, he risks a backlash in Bogotá and beyond, not only from Petro supporters, but from those who believe electors should choose and remove their politicians.
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