I am a fierce critic of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro. I think his government has failed. I think his government has divided the capital when we looked for unity and harmony after the disastrous Samuel Moreno regime.
As Petro stood proud on the day of his inauguration he promised us a “politics of love” but he now stands accused of pitching poor against rich, private industry against public and state owned institutions, of even picking fights with his closest aides who have left his government in droves over this long 11 months since he walked through the door to the Leivano Palace. In short, Petro has shown us a politics whose qualities are closer to hatred than to love.
Petro has spent a life time as an opposition politician, and he seems unwilling to let go of this attack dog mentality. Sadly, our mayor seems incapable of administrating with maturity or competence.
I was not one of the mere 30% who voted for him last year, but I was willing to give him a chance.
But Petro has gone out of way to alienate rather than to win over his critics. There is very little sense that the mayor governs for the whole of Bogota; those who voted against him have been shunned, and ignored.
So it is little surprise that there are those who feel Petro is unfit to run Bogota. Congressman Miguel Gomez of the President’s U Party even believes the mayor should be forced from office. This month Gomez officially launched the campaign to dispose the mayor via an article in the 1991 constitution which permits the revocation of a mandate through popular support.
In January, Gomez will start the process of collecting the 280,000 signatures necesary to take the campaign forward. If he clears this hurdle the movement must encourage 55% of the number of those who voted in the last mayoral election (approx. 1,234,000) to mark yes in a ballot on the revocation. So, around 617,000 “si” votes are needed.
With Petro’s unpopularity higher than 60% it does not sound that too far fetched. However, no mayor has been deposed via this article since it was first introduced in 1994.
What appears certain is that Bogota must endure a long, arduous and bitter campaign.
Although Petro has been – until now – a calamitous mayor, I will not join the campaign to oust him from office and here’s five reasons why:
- Like him or loath him, Petro was democratically elected. And elected to serve a full four year term.
- With peace talks ongoing in which we are promising the FARC an opportunity to demobilize and enter politics it is less than helpful for them to see a former guerrilla, Petro, forcibly removed from office.
- The first year of any mayor is difficult. Until September, Petro’s administration was effectively delivering what Samuel Moreno had planned. The outgoing mayor’s plan – whereever you are in Colombia – runs for around 9 months after the boss has left office. Petro has only had a question of months implementing his vision for the city.
- Why should Bogota lose another year of government while the mayor defends himself against these attacks? The district authority has been paralized for too long, and has delivered too little over far too many years. How would Bogota benefit from a further period of schlerotic non-management? Bogota does not want a mayor who spends his time fighting opponents while the transport network grinds to a hault and the rubbish piles up on the streets and in the parks.
- The revocation helps no one but the extremists. A fight of this kind helps Petro. We know that the mayor wants to run again for president of the republic. A campaign by the right will do him good, will allow him to position himself as the voice of the poor and the destitute, the white knight pitched against the overbearing power of the mafioso right. We must not let Petro present himself as a savior, as Bogota’s Evita – for he is not!
Yes, Bogota deserves and demands better than the mayor we have. But Bogota also deserves a politics based in serious administration of the very real problems that face our city. We do not want a polemicized “them versus us” debate, we do not want to give the mayor the opportunity to fight against the “paramilitary mafia” as he labels it.
We want Petro to get on with the very difficult job he has. We want Petro to stop fighting and to start governing. We want a Bogota based on progression not on regression and class warfare.
I do not support Petro’s government, but no I don’t support moves to remove him just a year after he was elected.