Bogotá’s Metro unleashes latest feud between Petro and López

President Petro greets Mayor Claudia López during a meeting over the Bogotá Metro. Photo: Presidencia.

The future of the First Line of the Bogotá Metro has again elevated political tensions between Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Bogotá Mayor Claudia López after the leftist leader accused her of “deceiving” the national government that is financing up to 70% of the country’s largest public works project.

The latest round between Petro and López started on Tuesday after the Mayor attended the groundbreaking for the construction of a viaduct on Calle 72 with Avenida Caracas. In a public statement, López stated that the viaduct had the backing of “complete and approved studies” from the district’s planning and inventory departments. However, this statement was met with strong opposition from Petro, a staunch advocate of an underground metro. Taking to Twitter, the Colombian President denounced that an elevated viaduct “in the city’s most densely populated area” would be a grave mistake. He then went on to claim that he had forged a “common proposal with the Alcaldía” to circumvent the elevated metro.

Claudia López quickly refuted the president’s claims, vehemently denying that any such agreement had been forged between them, and asserted that the elevated first line of the Metro is proceeding as initially planned. “The project is advancing with 4,200 workers and is near 24% completion,” stated López. “There is no turning back.”

The President’s threat that the national government could halt funding of the First Line has received fierce backlash from politicians, as well as center-right candidates running to occupy the second highest seat in the country. “President, show some restraint. Modifying the First Line of the Metro implies losing over COP$20 billion and an additional 8 years for construction. Focus on building, not on destroying,” stated Senator Miguel Uribe Turbay. Mayoral candidate and former Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo of Dignidad and Compromiso was also emphatic that the Bogotá Metro would advance as planned under his administration. “The Metro goes because it goes,” he stated.

Media outlets and journalists also voiced opposition to Petro’s heavy-handed social media posts. “Today, the nightmare of the elevated Metro is called Gustavo Petro and his dangerous capricious and autocratic personality; intervening in the largest ongoing project in the history of the nation due to his ego is by far the worst of the red flags that his government has shown,” writes Sergio Mendoza in Las 2 Orillas.

Even though López has categorically denied that there was never a pact with the national government to turn the First Line of the Metro into an subway, she did reiterate that her administration was open to the possibility of modifying the planned overhead route along the Caracas depending on technical evaluations. “In the meeting with the national government, we agreed that the Ministry of Transportation would conduct studies with the Colombian Society of Engineers (SIC) regarding alternatives that meet the legal criteria and cost-benefit analysis. We are still waiting for these studies,” remarked López.

In a high-stakes battle for the future of the capital’s transportation system, the residents of Bogotá remain caught in mobility gridlock, exacerbated by some 1.100 other public infrastructure works, many that will not be completed during the final five months of López’s term. With Petro’s candidate in the race for Mayor, a Gustavo Bolívar administration would bury the First Line in its entirety, and with it, any future plans for a Metro – regardless of whether it’s overground, underground, or a combination of both.