Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | December 13, 2013

Why reaction of former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro is a danger to stability and peace.

Colombia’s inspector-general, Alejandro Ordonez, ordered Bogota’s left-leaning mayor, Gustavo Petro, removed from office and banished from politics for 15 years. The inspector-general said he ordered Petro’s dismissal for “violating constitutional principles of commercial competition and freedom” by firing garbage collection contractors in December 2012 and replacing them with a city-run service. Petro’s gambit failed and the privately-run contractors returned to work three days later after garbage accumulated and caused health concerns.

Under the constitution, the inspector-general is the last resort. Though within the law, the inspector-general’s move is not democratic, and the people who voted for a lousy, incompetent and dictatorial mayor should live out the consequences and suffer to the end of the term.

Ironically, when Petro was a senator, he backed Ordonez’s inspector general candidacy.

First things first, Petro was not a popular mayor by any means. Ordonez did not anticipate the move would raise Petro’s popularity, and now Petro’s favorability jumped from 30.4 percent to 50.6 percent. Petro’s removal from office raised him to a national and international stage, and this (lousy, incompetent and dictatorial) new martyr of the left could be a viable presidential candidate.


Secondly, Petro’s removal from office could be the biggest obstacle to the current peace process with the FARC. Just a month ago, the government and FARC negotiators announced they had reached a draft agreement on safeguards for political participation and how the FARC could transition from guerrilla warfare to electoral politics.

Petro is a former leftist guerrilla with the now defunct M-19 rebel group. Petro publicly tied his dismissal to his guerrilla past and sowed the idea that his dismissal would impede the possibility of peace and the expression of the left’s vision for the country. In a country bleeding from violence, his rhetoric is irresponsible and does not reflect leadership. Petro’s reaction is a danger to stability and peace.

Of Petro’s dismissal, the FARC said, “the intolerance and the lack of guarantees for the political opposition are the greatest cases of the long armed confrontation” that takes place in Colombia.

But Bogotanos contend Petro’s firing is not about ideology but incompetency. Bogotanos are tired of heavy traffic and uncollected garbage. The once cutting-edge bus system, the Transmilenio, has become a setting for violent crimes.

Petro’s government secretary, Antonio Navarro Wolff, himself a former leftist M-19, resigned from Petro’s administration citing “differences of opinion.” (Read: Petro allegedly makes all decisions, and Navarro Wolff tired of Petro’s authoritarian self-serving orders.)

I’m not disagreeing that it is anti-democratic to not allow an elected official to finish out a term (even if they are L.O.U.S.Y. at this job) — but under the Constitution, the inspector-general’s move is lawful. Politics is tough. The U.S., who likes to lecture the world about democracy, recently suffered through its own tough episode when the government shut down last October. Though in bad judgment, the U.S. government shut-down was also lawful.

I’m wondering if every time someone from Colombia’s left is called out on ineptitude, will they react with “intolerance and the lack of guarantees for the political opposition” soundbite? Will they again sow the idea that their dismissal (from ineptitude) somehow impedes the possibility of peace? Will this scenario become habitual with the possibility of FARC in politics?

Politics are tough and unfair; that is the nature of politics. Great leaders can rise from this unfairness — as Nelson Mandela taught us.


  1. One outcome of this move against the Bogota mayor was always going to polarise the left and right wing and become a threat to the FARC – Colombia Peace Talks. For an issue such as the Bogota rubbish collection (which is now all forgotten) and removal of a democratically-elected mayor to put at risk such and important and historic peace process is foolish. There are higher stakes at present.
    Many people will assume this is part of a right-wing plot to derail the peace process and put Colombia backwards again. Even if not a plot, then at least it is an an act of utter stupidity done by an Inspector General who does not appear to have the wider interests of Colombia at heart.
    Let Petro finish his term, the Bogota voters are more than capable to decide what happens next.

  2. Paula:
    I wholeheartedly agree with you on this point. Petro’s election was a disgusting example of leftist paranoic whistleblowing. I was not happy with Petro’s administration. Sadly, I do not believe his removal from office will help much. It has polarized everything further than it already was, not to mention the FARC reaction. Let us wait and see what happens.
    One thing that bothers me particularly about the leftist whistleblowers is that they fight for their right to say anything, but,disrespect the right of everyone else to speak their minds. That attitude permeates everything the left does here.
    Thank you for this post, Paula.

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