The people of Colombia’s capital Bogota are only weeks away from being summoned to the polls to decide on whether or not their ever-polemical mayor Gustavo Petro should remain in office – no better time to kick off the referendum’s “yes” and “no” video campaigns, jingles and all.
With the referendum initiative that has been gathering momentum for months since the Bogota mayor’s failed reform of the capital’s waste collection system left tonnes of trash on the streets in late 2012 now round the corner, this Tuesday saw the launch of the opposing “Yes, Bogota, bye-bye Petro” and “Petro’s not going anywhere” campaigns.
Should enough voters opt for “no,” then Petro will remain in office until other legal and political actions against his term as mayor have been decided on. If the “yes” option emerges victorious, then Petro will be definitively kicked out of Bogota’s town hall.
The unlikelihood of Mayor Petro’s dismissal last December by the Inspector General’s Office over Bogota’s waste disposal system being confirmed before the referendum this March 2, as it is currently being revised by Colombia’s State Council, has opened the way for the opposing campaigners to stage their arguments for or against the Bogota Mayor.
Arguments, perhaps, or simply a variety of good-looking people singing the same words over and over again.
“No, no, no, Petro’s not going anywhere! Life’s not going anywhere! Hope’s not going anywhere!” the “no” campaigners chant in the 32 second video.
“Yes” is almost the only word sung in the rivalling bulletin, though the campaigners elaborate on this in their recently launched websites, with the anti-Petro front page sprinkled with quotes such as:
“YES I do want to get home early to see my kids (a secretary),” “YES I do want streets without holes (a taxi driver),” and “We the people of Bogota have been very patient with the [political] left,” the latter being a statement by the movement’s head promoter – Party of the U representative Miguel Gomez.
Former vice-president Francisco Santos accompanies Gomez in the battle that could see Petro become the first ever Colombian mayor to be revoked from office since the Constitution introduced this possibility to citizens.
The energetic “no” campaigners in recent propaganda appear to be filled with the same defiant confidence with which Petro declared “let’s go to the ballots,” when the referendum was validated last December 18.
And who can blame them – the chances of March’s referendum being decisive in Petro’s removal from office are rather slim. Though the Bogota mayor’s popularity was quite literally “in the gutters” shortly before his surprise ousting from office by Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez, the IG’s widely criticized boldness and Petro’s tireless crusade to stay in power caused his approval ratings to hit an all-time high last January.
A variety of polls led by local media outlets last month showed that up to 73% of citizens disagreed with Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s severe sanctioning, revealing a potentially game-changing backfire by the referendum initiative which initially counted on 78% of Colombians who in 2012 would have supported a mandate to recall Petro’s election, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
This March, 1.234,214 voters, or 55% of the number that elected him into office in 2011, must participate in the referendum for it to be valid. Of these, half plus one must vote “yes” for Petro’s impeachment to be final.
Though the notorious but separate case of Petro’s expulsion by Ordoñez in December over Bogota’s waste disposal system has often been condemned as being undemocratic, this recourse by the mayor’s rivals was approved by the register office after hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected over eight months.
The campaigns will be allowed to go on until the day before the referendum, which takes place on Sunday, March 2.