The candidates for Bogota mayor faced questions about their support of politicians implicated in criminal activities, their political alliances, the viability of their proposals, and their security policies in the latest debate before Sunday’s election.
Front runners Gustavo Petro, Enrique Peñalosa, and Gina Parody were asked whether they could support council candidates who are being investigated as part of the corruption scandal that caused current Polo Democratico mayor Samuel Moreno to be suspended.
Peñalosa said, “to me it seems excellent that they are investigating everything, and if any candidate is implicated in the Polo corruption scandal, I hope they face all sanctions possible.”
However, he also added, “it is important to highlight that there has not been any convictions or accusations against any councillor, it is simply a preliminary investigation … so these councillors deserve a fair defense.”
Parody responded by saying, “this position of Peñalosa’s worries me.” She pointed out that when President Juan Manuel Santos invited her to join the U Party congressional list, she requested he remove a number of candidates who were later convicted of corruption.
Throughout the discussion, the other candidates went to lengths to link Petro to the discredited Polo Democratico, who have occupied the mayor’s office for the last two terms. Petro was a presidential candidate for the Polo in 2010 but left the party soon after. During the campaign he counted on the supported of Ivan Moreno, currently in prison on awaiting trial for corruption.
Petro pointed out he had left as soon as the corruption scandal broke. He added “it seems to me you have to take precautionary measures. That measure is not to permit them to be re-elected.”
While Petro was grilled about his past allies, the other candidates faced questions about their current alliances. Peñalosa was asked why, if he called himself an independent, he accepted the endorsements of a host of political parties, ex-President Alvaro Uribe, controversial Venezuelan spin doctor JJ Rendon, and nine councillors under investigation.
He responded by saying, “I have been in politics for 25 years and nobody can say I have been given money to form a political union. I believe in the parties.”
Parody faced questions about her alliance with Antanus Mockus and whether it was merely a strategy to win more votes. She answered that they shared the same ideals but, in the past, had expressed them in different ways.
At one point, Parody was pushed onto the defensive by a question over the signatures of dead people appearing on the petition she handed in to allow her to stand as an independent. Parody denied her campaign was responsible and said it was only 20 signatures out of 240,000.
Petro faced a heavy examination over his proposed poverty relief initiatives, with the other candidates accusing him of not having properly accounted for the costs of the programs. He defended his plans to tackle child poverty and for free water for the poorest sectors of Bogota by showing a document explaining the costs and where the money would come from.
The candidates also laid out their policies on security. Petro and Peñalosa agreed that private security forces should be fully utilized. However, Parody claimed private security forces could go the way of the Convivir program – where citizen “defense groups” degenerated into paramilitarism.
With four days to go before the vote, Petro leads the latest polls, with Peñalosa and Parody slipping behind. The candidates will debate again on Thursday in an event organized by El Tiempo, Citytv, and W Radio.