Colombian president ordered to reappoint ousted mayor

Bogota’s Mayor Petro reappointed by President Santos after Superior Tribunal Court of Bogota ruling on Tuesday

Bogota’s Mayor Petro reappointed by President Santos after Superior Tribunal Court of Bogota ruling on Tuesday

BOGOTA, Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday signed a decree reestablishing Gustavo Petro as mayor of Colombia’s capital after the Superior Tribunal Court of Bogota ruled Tuesday that the ousted mayor should be reappointed to his position.

The left wing Petro was ousted on December 9, 2013 and banned from public office for 15 years following a decision taken by Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez and signed off on by President Juan Manuel Santos. 

The mayor was said to have endangered the lives of Bogota’s citizens when he failed to reorganize the capital’s waste disposal service. The result was a pile up of festering garbage and a long running legal battle that has now reached a new zenith. 

But Bogota’s Superior Tribunal Court ordered President Santos to act upon measures and a ruling suggested by the International Court of Human Rights (ICHR) on March 18. 

“The laws of the judges have ordered me to restore Mayor Petro and I have signed the decree,” said President Santos in a press conference from the presidential palace. “This decision is in accordance of the law. I have no choice, it is my duty, some may like it while others not.”

Upon hearing of the news, Gustavo Petro announced: “This time Bogota’s Superior Tribunal Court is protecting political rights, which are human rights of the citizens of Bogota, of Bogota as a city and mine.”

President Santos installed politician and ally Rafael Pardo as acting mayor of the Colombian capital after Petro’s removal. Pardo remained in that post until Monday when Maria Mercedes Maldonado was named as interim mayor. Elections were already set to be held for the mayoral position in July.   

Petro has long been a divisive figure in Colombian politics. Prior to being mayor of Bogota, he served as a senator and is a former member of the now disbanded M19 guerrilla group. 

His election to the country’s second most important public office was seen as a triumph for reconciliation in Colombia and for the on-going peace dialogues between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas and the government.  

There have been frequent marches and demonstrations in support of Petro in the Colombian capital in recent weeks and the FARC secretariat involved in the peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba have expressed concerns at the legality of the removal of a democratically elected public official. 

“The Superior Tribunal Court of Bogota has re-established the rights that were denied by President Santos when he ignored the measures of the ICHR,” said Iván Acuña a lawyer on Petro’s defense team.

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