Following a court order, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday he had authorized the reinstating of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro who the president dismissed from office only weeks ago.
The Bogota mayor was initially dismissed and barred from holding public office for 15 years by the Inspector General in December over Petro’s 2012 attempts to bring the capital city’s trash collection under government control.
The decision followed a series of lawsuits and an intervention by the Inter-American Comission for Human Rights that ordered the president to not sign off on the Inspector General’s order as it would infringe on the Bogota people’s right to vote and Petro’s right to be elected.
Santos ignored lawsuits, court orders and the IACHR and removed Petro from office.
According to a Bogota court, this last decision was against the law and Santos was legally forced to reinstate the mayor he helped to remove himself.
“The laws order me to reinstate Mayor Petro and I have signed the decree to reinstate Mayor Gustavo Petro into office. This decision is simple abiding the law, I don’t have an option. Some may like it, some not, but my obligation is to uphold the law and the judges who impose it,” Santos announced.
Santos decided to honor his two-week-old vow to reinstate Petro if a court ordered him to do so, and challenge this new ruling, Colombia’s Supreme Court would have the final word.
That final word however would only negate the “tutela” that Petro put forth, and not address the obligatory nature of precautionary measures ordered by international organizations such as the IACHR nor if Inspector General Ordoñez’s punishment was appropriate.
Here the knot becomes bigger because Colombia’s State Council — another one of the country’s four high courts — is expected to make a ruling this week on those very left over issues: the “precautionary measures” and the political punishment. While national media expects this decision to be in Petro’s favor, the State Council was responsible for denying 300 of the former mayor’s original “tutelas” demanding his stay in office.
The reinstating of Petro, a former guerrilla and political opponent of the president, is a major blow for Santos who is seeking reelection in the May 25 presidential election. The decision also casts doubt on the authority of Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez who initially removed the mayor from office and subsequently claimed the IACHR’s order could be ignored.
As Bogota and Colombia’s national authorities are in apparent chaos over Petro, all eyes are now on the Constitutional Court who — as it appears — has the final say.