|New Mayor Gustavo Petro is the |
product of a complex political history.
|Petro was a leader of the M-19 guerrillas, who in 1985 attacked the Justice Palace building, on the right. He's now mayor of Bogota, presiding in City Hall, on the left. In front of the buildings are the tents from today's inauguration.|
Petro was born in 1960, the son of a schoolteacher, and grew up in the town of Zipaquira, north of Bogotá. Petro early became a leftist, thru the reading of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and friendships with union members.
|Tomb of military dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, |
whose losing candidacy inspired the M-19
Almost as soon as he graduated from high school at age 16, Petro joined the M-19 guerrillas and eventually become one of its leaders.
The M-19 started out with dramatic gestures, such as the theft of revolutionary leader Simon Bolívar's sword from one of his statues. "Bolivar's sword returns to battle," the M-19 announced.
|The tomb of assassinated M-19 |
presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro,
perhaps Petro's political inspiration.
Note Bolivar's sword on the tomb.
|Jose Mercado, |
union leader kidnapped
and murdered by the M-19 guerrillas.
|1985: The Justice Palace in flames |
after the M-19 attack.
|The rebuilt Justice Palace today.|
After their demobilization, M-19 chose Carlos Pizarro as its presidential candidate. In 1990, Pizarro was assassinated - one of four candidates assassinated during that campaign. Surprisingly, the M-19 did not return to violence and participated in the 1991 convention which rewrote Colombia's constitution.
|A plaque on City Hall memorializing the 1985 attack.|
Petro won the election to a great degree because Bogotanos saw him as clean and independent. That made a sharp contrast to his predecessor Samuel Moreno Rojes, who is now in prison on corruption charges. Which brings up yet another irony: Moreno Rojas happens to be the grandson of dictator Rojas Pinilla, whose failed candidacy started Petro on the road to where he is today.
Perhaps the greatest significance of Petro's victory is its signal to the armed guerrilla groups which continue battling to overthrow the Colombian government. Mayor Petro is proof positive that the ballot can be a much more effective changemaker than the bullet. Are you listening, FARC?
|A plaque near Plaza Bolivar paying tribute to the people who disappeared during the Justice Palace tragedy.|
|Scrawled on a wall along Seventh Ave., apparently by student |
protesters: 'Against the Santos dictatorship, the M-19 gets ready.'
But Santos is no dictator,
and the M-19s leaders are in government.