The political feud between Bogotá’s Mayor Claudia López and President Gustavo Petro over the future of the capital’s First Line of the Metro has reached fever pitch, and many are fearing the worst outcome for construction of this mega-infrastructure project. As the narratives sharpen to the point of insult, on Monday, López reaffirmed that “Bogotá does not deserve mistreatment – or blackmail – from the government it elected with enthusiasm.”
As the tug-of-war plays out by two politicians known for stoking their social media feeds, last week it was Minister of Transport Guillermo Reyes who fueled the flames by stating in no uncertain terms, that should the district “not accept the modifications (to the First Line of the Metro), then the National Government, that finances 70% of other projects, will have to make them pay.” Reyes’ remarks were seized by the Mayor as “blackmail,” and reiterated, during an interview on Monday, in El Tiempo newspaper, when she warned that President Petro could leave all of Bogotá without any funding of public works.
As the occupiers of the two most important political seats in the country see their approval ratings slump, a poll released Monday by Datexco, shows that only 40% of Colombians approve of the Petro administration, and 33% of López’s. The President’s demands that a large portion of the First Line should be underground, threatens to either annul the contract with the Chinese consortium, or at best, delay construction by six more years. The only overland line is expected to be inaugurated in 2028.
The legal instability generated by the national government also sends mixed signals to foreign investors, and viability of future public-private ventures that require huge investments in the country’s transportation infrastructure.
The Bogotá Metro debate will spill into the streets on February 14 and 15 as two large marches have been summoned, one by President Petro to “defend the government’s agenda” and the other, called by opposition parties, to protest Petro’s health and pensions reforms. The pro-government protests on February 14 could result in vandalism to the city’s TransMilenio, as the articulated bus system, is the legacy of former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and one of the leftist leader’s arch-political foes. It was during Peñalosa’s second administration (2016-2019) that the Metro de Bogotá company was founded, and plans for an all-overland first line approved by City Council.
Petro’s insistence that the Metro be underground is, according to López, one of “vanity,” and despite a huge additional surcharge for the taxpayers, the consortium had strongly advised against changes to the original plans. But as Petro resists, and López defends, with each Tweet, Bogotanos are increasingly hostage to the vicissitudes of former administrations, and a current Mayor whose fiercest political battle is taking place during her final year in office.