Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and interim Mayor Rafael Pardo, in an apparent attempt to consolidate power in Bogota after sacking the mayor, announced a series of measures to solve the city’s major problems.
The news comes days after Santos rejected an order from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to reverse the decision to remove the now-former mayor, Gustavo Petro, from office.
The development plan involves nine specific actions across four major fronts with the aim of funding, “the substantial advancement of solutions that improve the quality of the life of Bogota” said Santos on Tuesday.
The four main points put forward by the president included security, transit, housing and healthcare, which were decided in a five-hour meeting with the Council of Ministers on Monday, informed a press release from the president’s office.
The statement from the presidency continued that the new mayor Rafael Pardo had decided on the most important points to “unlock many of the actions which had been frozen which had meant that Bogota had not progressed, and had not advanced at the pace expected by citizens of Bogota.”
Santos declared that a “short circuit existed … between the mayor’s office and the police” and by reestablishing a fluid dialogue the security situation in the city could be improved. 300 extra police would be added to the existing 800 who are already responsible for security on Bogota’s bus rapid transit system, the Transmilenio, reported weekly Semana.
Seventy-five of Bogota’s most insecure districts, where some 65% of crimes occur, were earmarked to benefit from the deployment of special mobile police squadrons. To further increase security, the plan outlined an increase in security cameras as well as the maintenance of currently existing cameras, whilst the creation of an “express” unit comprising the police, prosecution and judiciary would ensure that criminal captured do not immediately return to the streets.
FACT SHEET: Bogota Crime Statistics
The announcement of increased investment in Bogota’s creaking transport system is especially significant as Bogota is one of the few Latin American capital cities that has no metro, and the transport system struggles to cope with the city’s population. Santos announces investment in the Transmilenio line running up Boyaca Avenue, a major road running for some 36km from north to south in the west of the city. Several riots and protests have occured in the past at what is seen as an inefficient and inadequate mode of transport for the almost 7 million residents of the city.
It was also confirmed that there would be an enlargement of stations and extra services connecting with Soacha, a city on the southern edge of Bogota, whilst also confirming the construction of a metro cable linking the localities of Soacaha with Cazua and two further similar forms of transport. Perhaps more importantly the government also reaffirmed its commitment to a 70% contribution in the Bogota metro and declared that the bidding process would be opened in September if final studies had been completed.
New Bogota mayor Rafael Pardo announced that a helicopter would now monitor the city to assess the traffic situation on the ground, reported national broadcaster RCN which has been using a helicopter to monitor traffic for years.
FACT SHEET: TransMilenio
The government announced the revival of a project to build 10,000 extra houses in the locality of Usme, south west Bogota, as well as the delivery of potable water to neighboring districts. Santos did not clarify whether these houses are actually newly projected or part of a longer-term plan to provide 100,000 homes to Colombia’s most vulnerable.
Fourteen hospitals struggling with the threat of bankruptcy were earmarked to receive $68 million and a further $80 million was assigned to improve the entire hospital infrastructure of the city.
This last announcement is a confirmation of a promise made weeks ago as part of an attempt of the national government to tackle an ongoing crisis in health care.
Santos consolidates power
Aside from the four main points, issues such as energy, trade, culture, environment and education were also discussed, among others. The recent announcement by the government has proved interesting in its timing as it seems to consolidate the position of the government in its hold of power on the mayor’s office, widely considered the second highest elected position in the country.
The accumulated cost of the program is expected to amount to at least $1.5 billion, declared the vice minister for transport, Nicolas Estupiñan, reported El Tiempo newspaper.
|If the emergency plan was to take our transit and security programs, would it not have been better to respect democracy and the mayor’s office?|
Ousted mayor rejects intervention
Ousted mayor Gustavo Petro has accused Santos of orchestrating a “coup d’etat” and this most recent plan of action seems to have solidified Petro’s belief that his removal has been politically motivated.
On his Twitter feed Petro cried foul, accusing Santos of taking credit for his proposals, and asked, “if the emergency plan was to take our transit and security programs, would it not have been better to respect democracy and the mayor’s office?”
Sí el plan de choque era tomar nuestros programas de movilidad y seguridad, no era mejor plan de respetar la Democracia y la alcaldía?
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) March 25, 2014
Petro was initially impeached by the Inspector General’s Office over attempts to bring the capital’s trash collection under government control. The measure resulted in three days of accumulated garbage in 2012.
The Inspector General’s ruling is controversial as at least two different courts said Petro had broken no law.
The now-former mayor himself has called his dismissal politically motivated and “arbitrary.”
- Press release from President’s office
- Alcalde (e) de Bogotá entrega primer diagnóstico de movilidad (RCN Radio)
- Santos anuncia ataque contra los problemas de Bogotá (El Lider)
- Las medidas urgentes para Bogotá (Semana)
- Santos anuncia Plan de Gobierno para Bogotá (El Espectador)
- Alcaldía evalúa contraflujos y reversibles para mejorar movilidad en Bogotá (Caracol Radio)
- ‘Plan de choque de Santos para Bogotá ya estaba en programa de Petro’ (El Tiempo)
- Plan de choque de Santos para Bogotá pasaría de $ 3 billones (El Tiempo)