Clara Lopez, presidential candidate for the leftist Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico – PD) party, believes that with Santos’ reinstatement of Bogota‘s former mayor, Gustavo Petro, “democracy has been strengthened” in Colombia.
Late Tuesday night, Bogota’s Superior Court ordered President Juan Manuel Santos to return Petro to his role as mayor of Colombia’s capital city after a five month legal battle between the ousted politician, various courts, the inspector general, and international bodies.
Wednesday morning — moments before three presidential candidates including Lopez entered into a lively university debate — Santos reinstated Petro, as ordered, making the prodigal mayor the third person to hold the position in just three days.
While the debate moderators failed to ask a single question about Bogota’s ongoing judicial crisis, Lopez told Colombia Reports that she “celebrates” today’s decision, though this outcome was expected in many ways.
“We were not in agreement with the original dismissal carried out by Santos, as he did not recognize the precautionary measures of the Organization of American States (OAS), and it was predictable that — being of obligatory nature for various past decisions of the Constitutional Court — some judge of [Colombia] was going to return [Petro] to his position for having violated due process and international treaties,” Lopez asserted.
Bogota’s Superior Court ultimately ruled in favor of a “tutela” or writ or protection filed by Petro’s attorneys that argued that precautionary measures to keep the mayor in office as mandated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) were obligatory in nature. The IACHR is part of the larger OAS.
Lopez continued to say that this fiasco has harmed the president’s credibility substantially — Santos had initially approved Petro’s dismissal, ignoring the IACHR’s measure, and then avoided responsibility by saying that he would reinstate him if a court told him to.
“What we are seeing are the consequences of a badly made decision of the head of state that has been corrected by a judge of the Republic. I think that it has had a very big political cost [for Santos] and a constitutional cost that is almost irreparable,” said the leftist presidential hopeful.
The former mayor of Bogota herself said that these past five months in Colombia’s capital is “a demonstration of an institutional legal system in terms of disciplinary actions…that needs to be reformed.”
Lopez also criticized the role of the country’s inspector general — the office that ordered the initial dismissal of Petro over a 2012 garbage collection scandal — saying that its abilities to ban citizens from politics and remove democratically elected officials from office without due process are overreaching.
“The exorbitant abilities of the inspector general has to be revised and fixed. I think that that institution of the inspector general should be replaced by a disciplinary court of many judges so that in courts they can reflect upon the distinct opinions and political positions that there are in the country,” said the candidate.
“The consequence of unilateral exercise [in such a position] is a danger for Colombia’s democracy,” she affirmed.
Despite viewing Petro’s legal journey as a failure in democracy, Lopez was content with Wednesday’s outcome, though warned that the story was not over.
“I feel that [with today’s decision] democracy has been strengthened, but I want to say that the process has not finished. Other decisions are coming…What we have seen is an absolute judicial insecurity concerning the exercise of popularly elected positions. It worries me very much,” admitted the leftist politician.
“Yet for [this decision], I celebrate…that the Mayor’s Office of Bogota will be converted into a position[independent] of the President of the Republic,” Lopez concluded.
- Interview with Presidential Candidate Clara Lopez