Gustavo Petro gets a referendum


Looks like the mayor of Bogotá will get a second chance at holding on to his elected office, after all. And, fittingly, it will take place in another democratic vote:

The national registrar, Carlos Sánchez, informed that the electoral authority of Colombia announced on Wednesday that it would call a referendum to define the mandate of the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, after the signatures of those who support the initiative are validated.


He announced that “the recall referendum will come before the end of the month of February” in 2014, in compliance with the deadlines of established law.


In total, the national registrar stated that 353,330 signatures were validated in request of the recall referendum, when “in order to call a vote, only 289,263 signatures were necessary,” corresponding to 40 percent of the votes obtained by Petro when he was elected mayor.

The recall request had already been approved in July of this year by the district registrar’s office of Bogotá, but Petro disputed the signatures, which had to be reviewed by the national registrar.

This process against the mayor of Bogotá, elected to the 2012-2016 term, was begun by the parliamentarian Miguel Gómez, close to the right-wing ex-president, Álvaro Uribe, a harsh critic of Petro.


On Wednesday, Petro was in Washington to meet with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission over the sanction imposed last week by the Procurator General, which accused him of “irregularities” during a reform of the city’s garbage-collection system. What is known is that with this reform, Petro did away with contracts to private companies, and created a public sanitation service, which the Procurator’s office deemed to “place in danger the right to free enterprise”.

The sanction against Petro generated much debate in Colombia, and unleashed demonstrations in the streets of Bogotá all last week.

The mayor has recently confronted several parallel initiatives against his rule. In one of them, the State Council decided in October to clear Petro for public duty, throwing out a suit which sought to disqualify him for an old sentence for illegal possession of a weapon, in 1985.

For his part, the vice-president of Colombia, Angelino Garzón, spoke out against the decision of procurator Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado, against Petro.

In fact, to Garzón, it was an error to give so many powers to the procurator’s office in the National Constituent Assembly.

“I believe that all the constituents of all the political parties were wrong when we gave full powers to the Procurator and the Comptroller, and we forget that a basic principle of human rights is that public servants who are the object of disciplinary sanctions, must be guaranteed the right to a [legal] defence and due process,” said Garzón.

Translation mine.

Perhaps this is how Petro knew there was a conspiracy against him…this referendum to come is actually the product of a prior one, which he disputed. It’s very likely that he’ll win it, which would be a fine finger in the eye to those who called for signatures against him. It’s also more than a little reminiscent of Chavecito, who won a similar recall ten years ago.

¡Buena suerte, Gustavo!

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