Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mayoral Chaos

Bogotá ex-Mayor Gustavo Petro
Gustavo Petro's sudden exit from Bogotá's City Hall bodes ill for the city, for the peace negotiations and for political peace generally.

On the one hand, Petro's ouster by Inspector General Ordoñez's order will mean four mayors for Bogotá in three years, including Petro's predecesor Samuel Moreno, who is in prison now facing corruption charges, Clara Lopez, the placeholder appointed to succeed him, Petro himself, and the placeholder mayor whom Pres. Santos will appoint to hold the office until elections are held. And then, of course, will come whoever wins the special election - making five mayors since Moreno's ouster in May 2011.

All that makes the Colombian capital look exactly like what Colombia's trying hard not to be: an unstable, corruption-plagued Third World city lacking any sort of rational development plan. The possibility that the next mayor elected could be a conservative such as Francisco Santos, who was vice president under Pres. Alvaro Uribe (and is Pres. Santos's cousin), creates the prospect of the city's policies veering across ideologies. Forget continuity of policies or projects.

As far as the peace negotiations between the FARC and government taking place in Havana, the ouster of
Bogotá's previous elected mayor,
Samuel Moreno, who is now in prison.
Petro, a one-time leader of the M-19 guerrillas, on questionable grounds (for allegedly mishandling garbage collection) by an arch-conservative official will make FARC leaders ask, validly, whether they will receive fair treatment and have a role in government if they sign a peace deal. (Whther or not murderers like the FARC deserve a political role is a separate issue.)

Finally, Petro's ouster in this questionable manner will make him a martyr for his supporters and leave lots of resentment. It would have been much healthier for the city to have postponed the ouster and allowed the recall election, scheduled for early May, to have gone ahead. Stand or fall, Petro's fate would be decided by Bogota's citizens, leaving a sensation of closure and fairness.

Add to that the very real possibility that an enraged and embittered Gustavo Petro will start campaigning against the system by promoting the nihilist 'voto en blanco.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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