A nationwide poll released Sunday shows that public support for the executive leader of Colombia’s capital and largest city has been on the rise since the announcement of his dismissal and ban from office in December.
With 58% of Colombians supporting his office, Petro came in first in the poll, narrowly defeating Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria, who came in with 57%, and leaving behind the elected officials of Cali, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla.
Petro’s popularity since 2012
According to the Cifras y Conceptos polling institute survey, which was published by Caracol Radio on Monday, Petro’s office scored best in the areas of employment, public services and health, which have been focuses of his administration, while failing expectations in transportation and security.
The approving rate of 53% for Petro’s handling of public services is particularly interesting, given the context of the former urban guerrilla member’s dismissal from office.
In early December of 2013, Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez ruled that there were “serious irregularities” in Petro’s handling of the city’s garbage collection. The previous year, Petro had attempted to convert the city’s waste management contracts to public services.
In the immediate aftermath of the transition, garbage was allowed to accumulate on the streets of the Colombian capital, a situation that cost Petro politically, despite claims that the mishap was a result of a deliberate sabotage on the part of private garbage companies upset to see their multi-million-dollar contracts disappear.
Since Petro’s dismissal, there has been some debate as to whether the alleged wrongdoing is severe enough to justify the punishment. The Inspector General, however, has stood by his original ruling, as well as the 15-year ban from public office he assessed in his first decision.
After a month-and-a-half of political debate, legal controversy and public unrest, the fate of the Bogota mayor is still uncertain. Petro announced last Wednesday that he expects to leave office on January 30, assuming Ordoñez fulfills his stated intent to go against a central Colombian court ruling suspending Petro’s dismissal.
Just one day later after Petro’s speech, though, another administrative court in the central Colombian state of Cundinamarca ruled that Petro must stay in office until the conclusion of an impeachment referendum scheduled for early March.
Additionally, there is still a remote possibility of an intervention from either the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) or Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
What is clear, nonetheless, is that the controversy has boosted Petro’s popularity tremendously, from the 40% mark they have hovered around since he took office in 2012, to the all-time high of 58%, as recorded in the latest poll. Some 65% of Colombians say they are against the dismissal of Petro, while only about 30% support Ordoñez’s decision.
Regardless of what ultimately happens, it seems Petro has been successful in his attempts to transform himself from a controversial political leader into a national symbol of resistance against an abusive political system.