After making a defining statement Wednesday night that could affect the fate of Bogota’s ousted mayor, Colombia’s Constitutional Court president seemingly flip-flopped on the issue Thursday, saying he was not speaking about any specific case or person.
“In no moment was I making reference explicitly to the case of Mr. Gustavo Petro,” said Constitutional Court President Luis Vargas on Thursday morning.
Only hours before, on Wednesday evening, Vargas released a statement speaking out in favor of precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), calling for them to be acknowledged as “obligatory.”
The judicial leader said clearly that the Colombian government should have obeyed recent precautionary measures — the most public and recent of those being one issued in March to halt the suspension of former Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro from his public office — and taken them seriously in accordance with the “jurisprudence” of the high court.
Furthermore Vargas said that such measures should especially be “obeyed” when they concern violations of fundamental rights.
On March 19, the IACHR issued a precautionary measure in support of Petro saying that his (and potentially those of Colombian citizens who elected Petro) fundamental “political rights” were in a “grave and urgent situation.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the government subsequently ignored and rejected the measure.
While it seemed clear that Vargas was speaking directly about Santos’ decision to ignore the IACHR’s mandate Wednesday evening, by Thursday morning, he was singing a different tune, insisting that he was solely speaking “from the point of view of an academic.”
“The opinions expressed [last night] were aimed to make known the jurisprudence established by the Constitutional Court regarding the binding character of the precautionary measures of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, and the absence of distinction over some specific fundamental rights, without having made express reference to the [Petro case],” said Vargas according to El Espectador newspaper on Thursday.
Either way, an endorsement by the Constitutional Court of such precautionary measures by the IACHR combined with a call for the government and president to obey mandates like that from March 19, can still be viewed as a victory for the ailing ex-mayor, who has seen very few since the announcement of his dismissal came in December 2013.
While the State Council shut down all of Petro’s appeals to stay in office last month, the “jurisprudence” of the Constitutional Court regarding IACHR mandates, supports stopping Petro’s suspension in accordance with the international body’s order.
Bogota’s eyes will turn again to President Santos who said this week that he would agree to reinstate Petro if a court told him to.
The Constitutional Court has not made a ruling on the Petro case, but Vargas’ two days of flip flopping reveals that if the case were to come before his court, his magistrates would more than likely test Santos’ word.