Petro returns as Mayor

Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota.
Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota.

With the stroke of a pen, yesterday the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá ordered President Juan Manuel Santos to reinstate Gustavo Petro as mayor.  This decision came just one month after the president signed an order ousting Petro from office and appointed his Minister of Labor, Rafael Pardo, to take his place.

President Santos signed the order to reinstate Petro early Wednesday, explaining in a statement that he was fulfilling his legal obligations.  “This decision is simply complying with the law, I don’t have an alternative,” he said from the Casa de Nariño.  “Some people might like this decision and others might not, but my obligation is to obey the law and what the judges order.”

The Superior Tribunal’s decision comes in response to a tutela, a legal mechanism defending fundamental rights that was submitted by a Bogotá resident.  In its ruling, the Tribunal ordered President Santos to comply with the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which asked the state to keep Petro in office until they reach a final decision.

When Petro takes office again, after 34 days out of power, he will replace interim mayor María Mercedes Maldonado.  Maldonado was appointed by President Santos on Monday and served for less than 48 hours before the Tribunal’s decision was announced.  Petro’s return to office may also be short-lived, since the Inspector General plans to appeal the Tribunal’s decision tomorrow.

The mayoral recall election process, which was suspended in May when Petro was ousted, has also been reactivated.  This election will give city residents a chance to have their say in Bogotá’s governance, which has so far been determined by a lengthy legal battle that has resulted in three different mayors in a period of five weeks.

In a separate but related decision, the Superintendent of Industry and Commerce has ordered the district government to suspend its garbage collection system, the implementation of which was the original impetus for ousting Petro.  The Superintendent made this decision based on evidence that the district’s sanitation system violates free competition laws and fined Petro 410 million pesos ($212,000 dollars).  The Superintendent also imposed fines on three of the district’s public service companies and nine other government officials.


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