Rafael Pardo went from being known recently as a failed presidential candidate to holding Colombia’s second most powerful elected office as mayor of the capital city of Bogota in a matter of hours Wednesday night after being appointed by President Juan Manuel Santos.
Rafael Pardo received a political reboot Wednesday as President Santos tapped the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal-LP) politician to temporarily replace now former-mayor Gustavo Petro after the predecessor was dismissed over a garbage collection scandal.
Pardo perhaps represents the definition of a career politician and a current Santos-loyalist in Colombia.
PROFILE: Rafael Pardo
After losing badly in the 2010 presidential elections to the incumbent, Pardo was called upon to be the Minister of Labor for the current administration, a position that he has held since 2011 and will continue to hold as Bogota’s interim mayor.
“I will continue being Minister of Labor. [The mayorship] is an interim position,” said Pardo according to radio station W Radio after the announcement.
A fast-rising political star, the interim-mayor was put to the test very early on in his public career joining President Cesar Gaviria first as National Security Advisor in 1990 and then as the Defense Minister in 1991. As a former professor, Pardo was the first civilian to hold the position of Defense Minister in nearly 40 years, and his public enemy number one upon entering office was famed drug king-pin Pablo Escobar.
Pardo reformed Colombia’s National Police and Escobar was gunned down in 1993 while Pardo held this defense position. He retired from public light for a bit once Gaviria’s term concluded.
After working for international bodies and pursuing academia in the United States, Pardo returned to Colombia in the late 90s to try his hand at journalism becoming a news director at both RCN and CM& news outlets.
Finally in 2002, he returned to Colombia politics by gaining a seat in the Senate with the Radical Change (Cambio Radical – CR) party — a then backer of former President of Alvaro Uribe and current member of Santos’ governing coalition. Pardo ultimately defected from the Uribista enclave and join the Liberal Party, where his rapid success led him to earn their presidential ticket in 2010 with current Mayor of Medellin, Anibal Gaviria.
Ousted mayor Petro has already called Pardo an “impostor” according to El Tiempo newspaper.
The interim mayor, demonstrating cautiousness at the tense ordeal that reached its conclusion Wednesday after five months of legal battle, tweeted simply after the news broke, “I will work by hand with the President, with my colleagues in the cabinet, and with the team of the Bogota’s mayor’s office in order for the current situation to be over with.”
Trabajaré de la mano con el Presidente,con colegas de gabinete y con equipo de Alcaldía de Bogotá para que circunstancia actual sea superada
— Rafael Pardo (@RafaelPardo) March 19, 2014
Juan Manuel Santos is now responsible for organizing a special election to determine who will serve out the rest of Petro’s term.