Colombia’s state council on Tuesday temporarily blocked pending attempts to remove Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro from office, further strengthening chances of the embattled politician to finish his term.
Petro’s removal from office had been ordered in December by the country’s Inspector General, who additionally barred the socialist mayor from holding public office for a 15-year period.
Ignoring protective measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), President Juan Manuel Santos signed off on Petro’s impeachment in March, but was forced to reinstate the mayor weeks later by a lower court.
Petro’s position strengthened
Gerardo Arenas, the magistrate of Colombia’s State Council in charge of studying Petro’s case, supported the court order and issued a temporary protection measure, which impedes any authority from following up on the ruling that originally led to Petro’s removal from office.
The decision is not final since Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, who originally removed Petro from office, has already announced that he will challenge the measure. In the event of an appeal, the decision will go to the plenary chamber of the State Council, who will rule on the final verdict.
But for now, “the Inspector General’s decision to dismiss Gustavo Petro may not be carried out and, for now, the 15-year ban is suspended until a definitive sentence is produced,” Arenas told W Radio.
Regarding the State Council’s ruling, Petro said that the decision protects, “The mayor, the citizen’s vote, and Bogota.”
Petro’s temporary leave
Bogota’s mayor was removed from office in December 2013 due to alleged “irregularities” that were uncovered in his attempts to transfer the city’s privatized garbage collection system into public hands. This allegedly resulted in 9,920 tons of uncollected garbage left on the streets.
As a result, Colombia’s Inspector General, Alejandro Ordoñez, decided to dismiss the city’s mayor and ban him from serving in public office for 15 years.
Since his dismissal, Petro has appealed the decision many times, though all of his “tutelas” or writs of protection were denied by Colombia’s State Council.
Petro has called his dismissal politically motivated and “arbitrary.”
The US-based IACHR also intervened on Petro’s behalf, declaring the dismissal to be a violation of his political rights.
In late April, a Bogota court ordered Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos to reinstate the former mayor of Bogota.
The Superior Court of Bogota — a district appellate court — ordered the Santos administration to comply with a ruling issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which called on the Colombian government to suspend a ruling of the country’s Inspector General ordering Petro’s removal.
Bogota’s mayor has been transformed from a figure relatively unknown outside of Bogota into Colombia’s internationally recognized political martyr in just five months and the saga is set to continue.
The politician was once a member of the demobilized guerrilla group M-19.
The mayorship of Bogota is widely considered to be the second most important position in Colombian politics.