Petro’s dismissal: Kamikaze politics

Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro and Juan Manuel Santos.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro and Juan Manuel Santos.

Another political blow was handed down Tuesday by the Council of State (Consejo de Estado) to Bogotá’s embattled mayor Gustavo Petro. Deeming inadmissible the last eight of 23 ‘tutelas’ – legal petitions – presented by citizens, and which aspired to suspend the revocation order of the nation’s inspector general, Alejandro Ordóñez, the tribunal in a 20-4 vote, closed the door on three months of legal wrangling between Petro and the courts. So what next in the dramatic Petro fall-out?

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Upon being notified of the Consejo de Estado’s decision to uphold December’s decision by the inspector general, President Juan Manuel Santos should have signed the decree forcing Petro out of office and a relative institutional formality. Santos has 10 days to deliver his executive decision.** (see News Update).

Within hours of the final verdict, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States decided to enact their “precautionary measures” to protect Petro’s political rights. Petro’s suspension order came with a 15-year ban on him holding any form of public office.

Established in the Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR, “precautionary measures” establish that in serious and urgent situations, the Commission may “on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that a State adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons.”

By requesting legal guarantees and protection from the international court of the IACHR, Petro is now forcing the Colombian Government to suspend the inspector general’s verdict, allowing him more time in office, and also twisting Santos’ hand just a few months before Colombians head to the polls in a general election

If Santos rubber-stamps the Council of State’s verdict without waiting for the final ruling from the IACHR, the president could be in violation of internationally-binding accords and going against a powerful regional entity, the Organization of American States.

On the other hand, if the President waits for a ruling from the IACHR, then he basically invalidates the office of the inspector general, and one set up under the Colombian Constitution to investigate accusations of corruption and bad administration by public officials.

In what is turning out to be a contested presidential election, the Petro political “hot potato” has been handed to Santos. With plenty of popular support backing the mayor and mass rallies clamoring for him to stay in office, Santos cannot afford to alienate voters at this moment, especially those on the left  of the political spectrum.

Having recently clinched the official candidacy of the nation’s green party, Alianza Verde, former Bogotá mayor (1998 – 2001) Enrique Peñalosa quickly regretted the verdict of the Council of State. While the right-wing party candidate of Centro Democrático, and former finance minister Oscar Iván Zuluaga was more forthright stating that Bogotá “deserves a better administration.”

So while Santos is stuck in the middle, picking up the judicial pieces, and with just 10 weeks to prove his re-election, any determination he may take will most likely upset the balance of electoral power. In the meantime, Petro has vowed to stay in office, with kamikaze-style politics for the capital.

*************NEWS UPDATE

Just hours after this report was published, President Juan Manuel Santos signed the Council of State’s decree, officially ousting Gustavo Petro.  President Santos rejected the IACHR’s precautionary measures, claiming that precautionary measures should only apply when a country’s justice system fails.  In this instance, according to President Santos, the Colombian justice system has acted in accordance with national laws.

President Santos named the Minister of Labour, Rafael Pardo, as the interim mayor.  Pardo will take office tomorrow.  More to follow.


 “Although I know there is sadness in all of the democratic hearts in Colombia, the fight for peace and democracy continues. Be strong.”—Gustavo Petro

“Although I have criticized Petro’s management, I am not happy about his ousting.”—Enrique Peñalosa, Presidential Candidate for the Partido Verde and former mayor of Bogotá

 “Centro Democrático asks that the Mayor of Bogotá be removed from office, the respective person in charge named and elections be called.”—Ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

“In light of the decision of the CIDH, the recall should continue.  Let’s go to the polls on April 6 and let Bogotanos be the ones to decide.”—Francisco Santos, former Vice President.

“In Bogotá democracy is at stake.  Failing to recognize the will of citizens will have very negative effects.”—Aída Avella, Vice Presidential Candidate.

“Now we’re waiting for President @JuanManSantos to act according to international agreements.”—Guillermo Jaramillo, former Government Secretary of the Petro administration.

 “I understand the desperation and anguish of the ultra right, they are bad losers.  But no way: #Petro Isn’t Leaving”—Iván Cespeda Castro, Representative for Polo Democrático party.

 “We will finish the term.”—Susana Muhamad, Secretary General of the Mayor’s Office.

“Embarrassing that the International Court has to tell Colombians the obvious:  that the sanction/ousting by the inspector general violates the American Convention.”—Claudia López, Senator, Alianza Verde party.

 “I celebrate that the CIDH has declared precautionary measures for the mayor @PetroGustavo, they’re protecting his rights and above all those of his voters.”—Piedad Córdoba Ruiz, ex-senator, also ousted by the Inspector General

“@JuanManSantos is obligated politically more than judicially to accept the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights”—Ernesto Samper, Ex-President


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