[Marxism] Gustavo Petro and Colombia

Anthony Boynton anthony.boynton at gmail.com
Tue Jan 14 19:20:41 MST 2014

Hi everyone: Unfortunately the exigencies of life have kept me from
contributing to the various conversations on this list, including the one
that is not happening about Colombia. Thank you Stuart for posting the news
about Gustavo Petro.

As those of you who follow events here know, the mayor of Bogota, Gustavo
Petro, is being removed from office by the Procurador (usually translated
in the English language press as inspector General), Alejandro Ordoñez.
What you may not know is that today the Administrative Tribunal of the
Department of Cundinamarca suspended that decision.

This is one bizarre mess, but at the heart of it is the legal offensive of
the right against the legal left in Colombia. It is also a preemptive
offensive against a peace agreement with the FARC since - if an agreement
is made - any FARC representatives elected to office are certain to face
the same treatment as Petro.

Alejandro Ordoñez is also in the process of investigating Ivan Cepeda, a
member of Congress from the Polo Democratico who is an advocate for the
victims of the paramilitaries. A couple of years ago he removed Liberal
Party Senator Piedad Cordoba for allegedly having illegal meetings with the

Since he was appointed to office about five years, Ordoñez has removed more
than 800 elected officials from office, and thousands of appointed
officials and civil servants.

The Procurador is not like any inspector general I ever heard of. This is
an official who is appointed by the President and approved by the Senate,
but who has the power to peremptorily remove any elected official in the
country except the President and Vice President.

Most of the people who were removed were removed for corruption or for ties
to the paramilitaries. Petro actually voted to seat Ordoñez when Petro was
a Senator!

The office of the Procurador was created in the 1991 Political Constitution
of Colombia which is a 400 page document combining various
social democratic and neoliberal notions with the traditions of Colombia
derived variously from the French Revolution, the Wars of Independence, and
the Catholic Church. The document was written largely as a result of the
deal between M-19 and the Colombian government. Petro was a leader of M-19
and his current organization, the Progresistas, is largely the descendant
of M-19.

Petro has defended himself with a combination of large demonstrations,
appeals in all of the legal venues of Colombia, and an appeal to the
InterAmerican Human Rights commission. His defense is based on refuting the
charges against him without calling into question the constitutioanl right
of the Procurador to remove him.

The supposed reason for his removal are the model for garbage collection
he attempted to implement in Bogotà. Until the 1980's Bogota`s garbage was
collected by a municipal agency. When Andres Pastrana became Mayor, his
priorities were to plunder the city services through privatization. Garbage
and buses were the main victims. Pastrana and his family own several of the
companies that ended up taking over these public services. Family friends
own the others. Pastrana later became President of Colombia. His terms in
office as Mayor and President have the reputations as being the most
corrupt ever int he history of Colombia, even by people who hate the left.
This is saying a lot, because every administration is expected to be

Petro, on the other hand, risked his political career and more by blowing
up his own political party by revealing the corruption of the Mayoral
Administration of Samuel Moreno, who was a leader of his then party, the
Polo Democratico. The revelations split the Polo, and Moreno and many
members of his city administration ended up in jail.

As Mayor, no one has ever accused Petro of corruption. the charge against
him is that he tried to re-municipalize garbage collection. And, depsite
sabotage and every kind of legal and political obstacle, he partially
succeeded. There were three days of poor garbage collection during the
transition, and some problems with maintenance of new equipment once the
system was running. This is the entire case against Petro. If this happened
in New York or Paris, no one would blink an eye.

There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye: Ordoñez  is the right
hand of the Jesuits in Colombian politics. He is not a mere pawn of
ex-president Uribe, but he is a dangerous representative of the extreme
right. However, in his campaign against the legal left, he is in a clear
and close alliance with the Uribistas.

Their game is not just directed against the legal left, but is directed
towards the Presidential and Congressional elections later this year.

It dovetails with another, separate but coordinated, assault on Petro which
is the re-election campaign led by Miguel Gómez the grandson of the
Conservative Party President Laureano Gómez, who was the single person most
responsible for "la violencia" in Colombia, and who was ideolgically a
Fascist. Miguel Gómez carries on the family tradition, as the most extreme
right member of the Partido de la U, and the staunchest defender of
ex-President Uribe in politics today.

If the removal of Petro by the Procurador fails, a reelection vote is
scheduled on March 2. Gomez, through a very well
financed petition campaign, successfully obtained enough signatures of
voters to schedule the reelection. (Despite well documented irregularities,
the campaign apparently obtained enough real signatures to force a new

Petro's chances of winning reelection - should there be a new election -
are uncertain. All the polls how his popularity at an all time low, but the
polls in Colombia are notoriously corrupt and often way off the mark.

Another uncertainty is the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. such
a political case involving an election official has never before been put
before this august tribunal. Colombia is bound by treaty obligations to
carry out the decision of this commission, so what it does is not trivial.

I could go on if I had the time, but I don't.

That's all for now.


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