The Colombian State Council has voted down an appeal that would have kept Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro in office, following his dismissal by the Inspector General last December, local media reported.
It took several votes before the council could reach its decision, but eventually, Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s decision to remove Petro from office and ban him from political power for 15 years was allowed to stand, on a vote of 25 against and 14 for the appeal.
The State Council did not necessarily rule on the merits of Petro’s dismissal, justified on the grounds that there were “irregularities” in the mayor’s 2012 attempt to reform garbage collection in the Colombian capital, but rather, upheld Ordoñez’s constitutional authorities to sanction publicly elected officials.
Petro’s defense team is expected to appeal the council’s decision to the Constitutional Court, and in the meantime, the mayor will remain in office, as a number of other legal processes suspending the Inspector General’s actions run their course.
State Council President Maria Clara Rojas said the court still has to consider other appeals filed in Petro’s defense, but “the goal is to set guidelines for the ongoing appeal process.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose charter does not allow for the removal of public officials without due process, is also considering a possible intervention into the dismissal, and has reportedly called Petro to testify in late March.
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A final possibility would involve Petro’s fate in office be put to a citywide recall vote. A petition initiating the procedure has already received the necessary support, but a special election has been delayed by officials who say there is no room in the budget and that any recall would have to take place in conjunction with nationwide presidential elections in May.
Petro’s fight to remain in his elected post has become a political lightning rod throughout the country, garnering the dismissed mayor an unprecedented level of public support in Bogota and elsewhere. Petro has characterized the the Inspector General’s decision as a “constitutional coup,” claiming Ordoñez has abused his power to target political opponents.