Devout Catholic, anti-abortionist, Inspector General by landslide election and the man behind the political death of hundreds of public officials, Alejandro Ordoñez is a polarizing figure in Colombia.
With the endorsement from the Catholic Church, the sitting inspector general has risen through the ideological ranks of conservative politics to a position of great power.
All the while, Ordoñez was guided by an unyielding moral vision that has made him a righteous crusader to some and a dangerous zealot to many others.
Early life and career
Despite all the charged controversy he would later inspire, Ordoñez comes from seemingly harmless beginnings. He was born in 1955 in the city of Bucaramanga and grew up in a house attached to his father’s “Galletas Aurora” biscuit factory, where he and his brothers would work during school holidays.
The highly religious Ordoñez family and his studies in the San Pedro Claver Jesuit College instilled in Ordoñez the strong Christian ideologies that would later in life lead him to train to become a man of the Church, albeit not for very long.
Ordoñez entered the Universidad Santo Tomas in 1971. He came out with a degree in Law and Political Science only to return to the same university not long after, this time as a Philosophy professor.
There he officially entered the political party which he would remain affiliated to his entire life by being elected the Conservative Party‘s Junior President for the Santander Department, as well as meeting his future wife, Beatriz Hernandez de Ordoñez.
Before marrying, Ordoñez studied to become a clergyman for one and a half years in France and Argentina. Not cut out for the ecclesiastical profession, however, he started a family and now has three daughters, Maria Alejandra, Natalia and Angela Maria.
In this period he would begin his career in Administrative and Civil Law as a trial attorney for various businesses, consequently specializing in Administrative Law at Universidad Santo Tomas. In the following years Ordoñez would lecture at a number of universities including those of Sergio Arboleda, Catolica, Autonoma de Bucaramanga and Nacional.
Ordoñez first step into public office happened in 1986 at the age of 31, when he became a city councillor for the Conservative Party in his birth city and Santander State capital. This lasted three years, after which he would be appointed co-judge, magistrate and finally president of the Administrative Tribunal of Santander.
At the turn of the millennium, Ordoñez was elected adviser in the Colombian Council of State, an entity which he would later preside in 2004.
The year 2008 saw Ordoñez selected by an overwhelming 81 votes to one in the Senate to assume the position of Public Minister, or Inspector General of Colombia.
A seat from which has pledged to fight corruption and which he occupies to this day, after a successful re-election for the 2013 to 2017 term.
Ordoñez has divided public opinion since his rise to national governance. His strong, though more often than not hotly debated, views and iron resolution has seen the end of hundreds of politicians’ political career.
Acting under the pretext of moral and religious values he has gained support from some, while many accuse him of being too extreme in his policies, acting undemocratically and abusing his power.
As well as promising to improve the training of public servants to avoid them committing offenses, Ordoñez’s claims of eradicating corruption soon started resembling a veritable crusade.
“I have two pledges for my work: the first is the battle against corruption, which will be a merciless one, because it’s a question of returning morality to the country and the necessary credibility of institutionality,” Ordoñez reportedly said in 2008. “Secondly, we have to develop pre-active, preventative and disciplinary action.” – Vanguardia, 11/12/2008
Ordoñez began to use the penalizing power of the IGO to fire, fine and ban public officials, the majority under allegations of being part of Colombia’s “parapolitics” scandal — the involvement of politicians with paramilitary groups.
Minister, state governors, mayors, members of parliament and councillors from various political parties all felt Ordoñez’s heavy hand in an on-going mass operation which has attracted both praise and strong opposition. At the end of the year 2013, RCN Radio reported that during his 9 years in power Ordoñez’s Office had fired a total of 791 democratically elected public officials.
Among those that have come under fire since the start of Ordoñez’s “reign,” the Inspector General famously brought about the professional ruin of the former Minister of Agriculture Andres Felipe Arias, former president’s Chief of Staff (at Casa de Nariño) Bernardo Moreno, former Cauca Valley State governor Juan Carlos Abadía, former senator Piedad Cordoba, former Magdalena State governor Omar Diazgranados, and former mayors of Bucaramanga, Fernando Vargas Mendoza, and of Medellin, Alonso Salazar.
“Do not fear the IGO, those who have nothing to fear; those who are corrupt fear it as much as they wish, as I am chasing them down like rats on cheese.”
There are many questions surrounding the legitimacy of Ordoñez’s severe measures and whether he has the authority to remove officials that have been selected by the Colombian people by popular vote.
According to Colombia’s Constitution, the IG does have the legal right to dismiss public officials for going against the law or the Constitution, although international treaties signed by the state would contradictorily disallow this.
Ordoñez has publically declared himself to be against the ongoing peace talks that are taking place between the Colombian government and the FARC on many occasions, calling it a “barbarity” that the state is considering granting the rebels access to politics.
On the contrary to other officials, has made claims that there are members of the FARC who have been sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that these members should therefore be denied participation in democratic elections for Congress.
The Petro case
The IG fired Mayor Petro and banned him from public office for 15 years for, supposedly, a failed reformation of the capital city’s waste collection service. The decision was made following Petro’s attempts to bring Bogota’s trash collection under government control, which resulted in uncollected trash filling the city’s streets for a total of three days in late 2012.
According to Ordoñez, Petro committed “serious misconduct,” illegitimately transferring the responsibility of trash collection from the contractors and therefore violating their rights to free enterprise.
Only two days after Petro claimed Ordoñez received his 200-page rebuttal to the decision, the IG confirmed his decision, supposedly removing him definitively from his seat in Bogota’s Town Hall.
Petro was reinstated weeks later after a Bogota court ruled that the inspector general had overstepped his authority.
Abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia
Ordoñez has openly and forcefully opposed himself to Colombia’s laws on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia, all the while qualifying these as attacks on the nucleus of society, the family.
Having qualified abortion as being “the cruelest and most silent Holocaust,” and “the most wicked of all crimes against humanity,” he has consistently tried to modify the constitution – which already only allows therapeutic abortion — in order for abortion to be disallowed under any circumstances.
To which the former manager of the Bank of the Republic, Salomon Kalmanovitz, retaliated in May 2013, labeling him as “the women’s Hitler.”
Ordoñez has similarly appealed for the annulment of ruling C-577 of 2011, which allows the union – though not marriage – of homosexual couples. His appeal, which asserted that those conducting gay unions were acting against the constitution, was rejected by the Constitutional Court for being “unjust.”
The current IG has also made his views against euthanasia clear, stating that “the right to euthanasia may seems politically correct … this is the true legacy of Nazism.”
Ordoñez has also pronounces himself regarding the defense of the maritime territories being disputed between Colombia and Nicaragua.
He attempted to declare the sea territories of Colombia’s San Andres island cultural heritage in order to protect them from falling into being property of Nicaragua before the Hague’s 2012 ruling, which removed miles of sea from Colombia.
Ordoñez’s claims center around the lack of authority from an international Court such as the Hague to determine frontiers, asserting rather that treaties between countries are the only ones with the power to modify these.
Often labelled a “religious fanatic” by people such as mayor of Bogota Gustavo Petro, many would claim that Ordoñez rather radically integrated his Christian views into his work.
When Ordoñez entered the spotlight of national politics and took office in 2009, the controversy surrounding him and the rigorous implementation of his ideologies soon began, as even his subordinates began to complain about his imposition of the Catholic faith in the IGO.
Upon entering his new office, Ordoñez reportedly asked his 27 employees (18 agreed) to contribute US$25 in order to buy a thousand dollar crucifix, which then occupied the place previously occupied by a painting of “The Man of the Laws,” Francisco de Paula.
As well as being a church member of one of the traditionalist and often considered radical Society of St. Pius X, Ordoñez reportedly belongs to the extreme right-wing “Order of Banned Legitimacy” (Orden de la Legitimidad Proscrita) of the Catholic Church which uses politics to diffuse their ideals.
Their strict rejection of homosexuality and abortion, among other values, are reflected in a 2003 book written by Ordoñez named “Towards the free evolution of our animality,” in which homosexuals are described as being un-natural.