Colombia’s inspector general said she provisionally suspended the mayors of Medellin and Ibague for their alleged meddling in elections.
Inspector General Margarita Cabello announced the suspensions on Twitter, but didn’t immediately publish formal disciplinary charges.
The decision is controversial as it could be in violation of international law, which bars the inspector general from removing elected officials from office without a court order.
Furthermore, Cabello was criticized for suspending Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero just hours after a video in which Quintero called for a “change in the first,” apparently referring to a single-round election victory for opposition candidate Gustavo Petro on May 29.
Cabello announced no measures against General Eduardo Zapateiro, who is being investigated by the inspector general’s office for his public opposition to Petro.
Perhaps most importantly, the inspector general claimed to have the powers to remove elected officials from office, which Cabello only does if she decides to blatantly violate international law.
The announced suspensions were rejected by opposition politicians.
Legal experts argued Cabello may be breaking the law herself.
Others criticized the inspector general’s apparent double standard when it comes to using her authority.
“The institutionality of watchdog entities is being destroyed,” presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo said.
The suspensions are the latest escalation of tensions over the March congressional election and the ongoing presidential race.
According to the independent Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), public confidence in electoral authorities plummeted after the National Registry failed to count some 1.5 million opposition votes in the congressional election.
The MOE has also called on President Ivan Duque to stop interfering in election debates.
The Constitutional Court last week struck down elements of the 2022 budget that suspended electoral legislation against illegal campaign financing.
Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party suffered a major defeat in the congressional elections and polls indicate that Petro is likely to defeat the establishment in the presidential elections.