Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro faces a campaign to remove him from office less than a year into his mandate. While I agree the mayor has been under-performing, an impeachment would be a slap in the face of the capital’s electorate.
Last month a group of local lawmakers, led by Conservative Telesforo Pedraza started to seek the signatures necessary to revoke the capital´s district mayoralty, and in the process topple Petro.
Pedraza took to the radio waves to announce his campaign:
"What good it would do if the Mayor of Bogota were revoked. It would
let people know that the administration of the city cannot be based
According to the Bogota house representative, Petro’s crimes are both an ad hoc approach to government, and blatant clientalism.
Pedraza accuses the mayor of an acute case of “initiativitis,” in which he announces with great fanfare — on a “daily basis” — a new proposal to end this or to improve that. Petro must “think before speaking” Pedraza argues.
Perhaps more critical is the house reps’ assertion that the former M-19 guerrilla uses his patronage to appoint hopelessly unqualified individuals to top positions in the administration.
Indeed, Petro is expected shortly to face legal proceedings into (among other things) this purported carrousel of “jobs for the boys.” Inspector General, Alejandro Ordoñez is anticipated to start the ball rolling once he is re-elected in the coming weeks, and may yet take the matter out of the hands of Pedraza´s campaign and directly rule Petro unable to govern.
How strong Ordoñez’s case is we will have to wait and see.
If Petro is not removed by Ordoñez then Pedraza´s argument that he should be deposed because of incompetence should also be resisted — it is an entirely anti-democratic proposal.
However bad you feel Petro is doing, he was elected democratically — and elected to serve a full four year term. He must be allowed to continue to govern.
It is clear there are some in Colombian politics who cannot accept that a former guerrilla is in power. Petro has spoken of dark forces working to paralyze his administration. Well, the mayor is doing a pretty good job of paralyzing Bogota on his own – resignations from his top team are virtually a monthly occurrence and Pedraza is right to point to the improvisation of a mayoralty that seems never to have located its compass.
But Petro is evidently right to point to the fact that there are some who want him out, who actively want him to fail. This is not healthy either for the political system, or, more importantly, for Bogota.
And if we are honest it is not fair to label Petro a total and utter failure, despite the attempts to paint him so.
It would be unfair not to point to the successes of the regime.
Yes, Petro is working to reduce the cost of water for the poor, yes the homicide rate in Bogota is the lowest in a generation, yes perceptions of the security situation are reported to have improved, and yes, the adjustment of the pico y placa (peculiar transport management program that seeks to restrict the number of days on which any given vehicle can use the roads) has not been an unmitigated failure. Yes it is also true that his proposals for treatment for drug addicts have attracted some support from the Santos government.
The list of buts is longer, of course. It is simply wrong, however, to argue that Petro has not done achieved anything in his short time in power. He might have focused on the wrong things and it might be true that he would be better to devote 100% of his time on fixing the city´s shocking transport, than wasting time banning bull fights.
But Petro was not elected to deliver center or right wing policies.
Plenty of people I speak to who voted for him last year are happy with at least part of his administration. To remove Petro from power by political force would be to deny these people their voice. Petro won the election fair and square – and those who campaigned for him deserve to see their man given a chance.
So it is with relief that El Espectador newspaper today reported that Pedraza´s campaign is failing. The daily broadsheet spoke of the “gradual dissolving of the desire” to effect a coup, referencing comments by MIRA senator Carlos Alberto Baena who argued Petro needed the “support” of the political class to overcome Bogota´s problems.
Baena is right. The problems that face Bogota are great, and for the good of a city, Petro must be shown the errors of his ways — yes — but institutionally undermined — absolutely not.
President Santos understand this and the appointment of former mayoral candidate, Gina Parody could well prove a smart move to start to force the mayor to deliver on this promises, to work with the government.
Petro entered power in January after decades as an opposition politician. Now in government this former M-19 ideologue has very little time to prove himself, and to prove the critics wrong. Unless there is a judgment against him by Ordoñez, he must be allowed to get on with the job. He can only get better, can’t he?