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Bogotá Institutes Dry Law to Stem Soccer-Related Violence

June 20, 2014

by AQ Online

A ley seca (dry law) announced by Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro on Wednesday was extended until 6 am this morning. Petro justified the implementation of the law citing the violence that erupted after Colombia’s opening World Cup game against Greece on June 14—the South American nation’s first tournament appearence in 16 years. Despite liquor sales ending at 6 pm, over 100 people were injured and nine people were killed in gunfights, stabbings and fistfights on the eve of the presidential runoff.

Asociación de bares de Colombia (Association of Colombian Bars–Asobares) criticized the law, claiming that it would create a black market in Bogotá similar to demilitarized zone of Caguán, which was a safe haven for the Fuerzas Armadad Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) during the presidency of Andrés Pastrana. Even though liquor sales were banned, bars were still able to open during and after the match yesterday.

Colombia has had a history of violence resulting from soccer celebrations, as exemplified by their resounding 5-0 victory over Argentina in the 1994 World Cup when 76 people were killed and 912 were injured in the celebrations. On Wednesday, fans of the soccer club Millonarios, who celebrated the club’s 68th anniversary, stole a bus by threatening the bus driver with a knife in a day that ended with 32 wounded.

So far, Colombia has performed brilliantly during the World Cup, shutting out Greece 3-0—when the initial violence erupted—and defeating Côte D'Ivoire 2-1 to book a ticket to the knockout stage of the cup. Their final match of the group stage is against Japan on Tuesday, June 24.

Tags: Colombia, Gustavo Petro, Dry Law

El viacrucis de Bogotá

March 31, 2014

by Jenny Manrique

Con Rafael Pardo como alcalde interino, el ex-alcalde Gustavo Petro destituido y en campaña por una Asamblea Constituyente, y unas elecciones atípicas en ciernes pero sin fecha definida, Bogotá—la ciudad más importante de Colombia—padece un viacrucis como consecuencia de una serie de malas decisiones administrativas, políticas y de abuso de poder nunca antes vistas.

El 19 de marzo, Bogotá fue protagonista del fin de una larga batalla judicial que comenzó cuando el Procurador General, Alejandro Ordoñez—un católico empedernido que gobierna con crucifijo y creencias anticomunistas de antaño—declaró la muerte política para Gustavo Petro, el único ex-guerrillero que había logrado llegar a la jefatura de gobierno de la capital del país por voto popular. Es cierto que fueron 730 mil votos, una mayoría simple por los volúmenes de abstención en Colombia, pero fue elegido por voluntad popular al fin y al cabo.

El procurador destituyó a Petro de la Alcaldía y le decretó inhabilidad para ocupar cargos públicos por 15 años, como sanción por el caos y la improvisación en el esquema de recolección de basuras de Bogotá implementado por el ahora ex-mandatario. En Colombia el Procurador emite fallos de esta envergadura porque la procuraduría se encarga de castigar faltas disciplinarias y la Constitución así se lo permite. El asunto es que durante el mandato de Ordoñez, sus resoluciones parecen más una cacería de brujas contra opositores políticos—como en los casos de la ex-senadora Piedad Córdoba y el ex-alcalde de Medellín Alonso Salazar—que sanciones contra malos gobernantes por mal ejercicio del poder.

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Tags: Gustavo Petro, Juan Manuel Santos, Alejandro Ordoñez

FARC Says Petro’s Removal Will Affect Peace Process

March 21, 2014

by AQ Online

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) condemned the removal of leftist Mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro from office Thursday, saying it will have a negative impact on the peace negotiations. 

Last December, Petro, a  former member of the demobilized guerrilla group Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement—M-19), was removed as mayor and banned from holding office for 15 years by Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez, for alleged mismanagement of the garbage collection system. A backlash of protests and lawsuits filed by Petro's supporters suspended his removal until Wednesday, when the Council of State reviewed and rejected the lawsuits and President Juan Manuel Santos approved Petro’s removal.

Iván Márquez, the FARC’s second in command, said that the decision to oust Petro affects the trust that has been built between the FARC and the government throughout the peace talks, and casts doubt on the promise of political participation for demobilized guerrillas.

Petro accused Santos of staging a coup on the city and showing his inability to achieve peace.  Márquez stated that it will be impossible to achieve an agreement with the Colombian government  if it continues to make decisions that undermine Colombian democracy, like the forced removal of a popularly elected official. “We can very respectfully say that the mafia of the right has taken the power,” Márquez added.

Rafael Pardo Rueda, Minister of Labor of Bogotá, was appointed as interim mayor of the capital on Thursday afternoon until new mayoral elections take place in June.

Tags: Gustavo Petro, Colombia, FARC

Monday Memo: El Salvador’s Next President – Venezuela – Peace in Colombia – Protesters Cross U.S.-Mexico Border – Bogotá and Petro

March 17, 2014

by AQ Online

Likely top stories this week: election results are sustained in El Salvador; Venezuelan protests continue; Santos is optimistic about peace with FARC; young immigrant protesters cross back into the U.S.; Gustavo Petro’s future as mayor is uncertain in Bogotá.

Cerén Declared Next President of El Salvador: El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal officially rejected presidential candidate Norman Quijano’s calls to annul the country’s March 9 presidential elections on Sunday. Last Friday, the court declared Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén the next president of El Salvador, but Quijano claimed electoral fraud and demanded a vote-by-vote recount. The court said Sunday that there was not enough evidence to back up Quijano’s claims. Cerén won by a narrow margin, capturing 50.11 percent of the vote—or just 6,364 votes, according to the final count. Cerén will take office on June 1 and govern for five years.

Death Toll Mounts in Venezuelan Protests: After another day of protests on Sunday, Venezuelan security forces cleared demonstrators on Sunday from Plaza Altamira, a square in Caracas that has served as a center of the protests in Venezuela. A day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued an ultimatum to protesters on Saturday, troops entered the square on motorcycles, firing water cannons and tear gas into a crowd armed with rocks and homemade bombs. Government supports also rallied on Sunday, marching to the presidential palace to show support for Maduro. As of Thursday, Venezuelan state prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz announced that 28 people had been killed in the violence in the last six weeks.

Santos Says Colombia Could Reach Peace Deal by End of Year: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos maintains that the government could sign a peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) by the end of 2014. The success of a peace deal has been called into question following the country’s legislative elections, which saw former President Álvaro Uribe’s new party, the Democratic Center, win the second-largest number of seats in the Senate. Uribe is deeply critical of the peace talks, and accuses the government of offering the guerrillas impunity for their crimes.  Santos said that a deal would likely lead to efforts to eradicate coca crops and drastically reduce Colombia’s production of cocaine.

Mexican Immigrants Organize Mass Border-Crossing into U.S.: Approximately 60 immigrant protesters were detained on Sunday as they participated in a mass border-crossing into the United States to protest U.S. immigration policy. The protesters, most of whom are undocumented young people who entered the U.S. as children, crossed at the Tijuana-San Diego border in the third such crossing in a week. All of the protesters had been deported or left the country before President Barack Obama signed an order to defer deportation for childhood arrivals into the U.S. in June 2012. The protesters who attempted to cross the border this week have applied for asylum hearings.

Petro’s Fate Still Uncertain in Bogotá: Colombia’s Consejo de Estado (Council of State) must decide soon if Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro can remain in office after Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez ordered his removal in December. The Council of State is expected to convene on Tuesday to resolve the remaining appeals, and its decision will ultimately end up on the desk of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who is running for re-election in May. Meanwhile, even if Petro remains mayor, he could face a recall election on April 6.

Tags: Gustavo Petro, Venezuela, Immigration

Garzón Dismisses Bogota Mayor Rumors, Becomes Ambassador

January 16, 2014

by AQ Online

Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón accepted an offer on Wednesday made by President Juan Manuel Santos and Chancellor María Ángela Holguín to become the Colombian ambassador to Brazil. Garzón had recently been linked to a position as provisional mayor of Bogota, to replace embattled Mayor Gustavo Petro. But in an open letter, Garzón negated the possibility, the stating that “neither the president has suggested it to me, nor would I accept.”

Garzon’s appointment comes only one day after a Colombian court ruled to suspend Petro’s removal from his position as mayor of Bogota. In early December, Petro was ordered removed from office by Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez under accusations of mismanaging a garbage collection system, and banned from holding public office for a period of 15 years. Thousands of Petro supporters rallied to support the mayor, who is permitted to stay in office until the end of the appeal process, and on Tuesday courts put the ruling on hold. Vice President Garzón has openly supported both the investigation into Petro’s alleged crimes, as well as the mayor’s right to due process. 

As part of his new agenda as the ambassador to Brazil, Garzón will meet with the President of the Federación de Fútbol Colombiano, Luis Bedoya, to discuss Colombia’s participation in the World Cup, as well as Brazilian business owners. Garzón will continue in his current position as vice president until August 7, 2014.

Tags: Colombia, Angelino Garzón, Gustavo Petro

Bogotá Mayor Removed from Office

December 10, 2013

by AQ Online

The mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, was removed from office Monday and banned from holding public office again for 15 years in a decision handed down by Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez. Ordóñez found that Petro “improvised” and mismanaged a garbage collection system implemented last year, replacing private garbage collection companies with city entities that had "no experience, knowledge or capacity" in trash pickup services. An investigation was launched in January after Petro’s system resulted in “a grave emergency” that left tons of garbage unattended for days.

Petro, a leftist politician with former ties to the guerrilla group M-19 that demobilized in 1989, has called for peaceful protest against the decision which he considers a coup and plans to appeal the decision. Thousands of protesters  gathered at Bogotá’s Bolivar Square after the decision was announced, claiming that the attorney general should not have the power to remove a democratically-elected official and that the ban is a political tactic against Petro’s progressive government. The mayor’s term is not supposed to end until 2016.

This is not the first time that the attorney general leaves Bogotá without a leader. Petro’s predecessor, Samuel Moreno Rojas, was also sanctioned for lack of public projects oversight in May of 2011, though he wasn’t banned from office. The ruling may threaten Colombia’s ongoing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which promises to integrate demobilized rebels into electoral politics.

Tags: Colombia, Gustavo Petro, Bogota Mayor

From Colombia. The Victory of Gustavo Petro, Bogotá’s Newly Elected Mayor

October 31, 2011

by Andrés Mejía Vergnaud

One year ago, Gustavo Petro, a former senator and presidential candidate, called a press conference along with his friend Carlos Vicente de Roux (a member of Bogotá’s city Council) and Senator Luis Carlos Avellaneda. At this conference, Petro and his friends presented the results of an inquiry, conducted by themselves, on what by that time was already known as the “Cartel of Contracts,” a multi-million dollar racket involving the infamous Nule Group, a network of corporations that had been awarded important contracts in Bogotá. Gustavo Petro and his friends, all of them members of Polo Democrático, Colombia’s biggest left-leaning party, demanded the prosecution of two prominent members of their own party: Samuel Moreno, the mayor of Bogotá, and his brother Iván, a senator.

From the beginning, this request faced a hostile reaction from the ruling group in their party. Partly due to ideological paranoia, Senator Jorge Robledo, for example, labeled the accusations as a far-right conspiracy.

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Tags: Colombia, Bogota, Gustavo Petro

Gustavo Petro Elected Mayor of Bogotá

October 31, 2011

by AQ Online

Gustavo Petro will be the next mayor of Bogotá after winning 32 percent of the vote in yesterday’s election. Elected to the Senate in 2006, Petro of the Movimiento Progresista (Progressive Movement) party ran on a platform of zero corruption. Enrique Peñalosa conceded after losing to Petro by 7 percentage points; he won 25 percent of total votes.

Peñalosa, mayor from 1998 to 2001, oversaw development of a rapid transit system during his mandate that has earned praise from urban planners and other Latin American mayors. Peñalosa also enjoyed the support during his campaign of former President Alvaro Uribe. Petro, an ex-guerrilla of the M-19 movement that disbanded in the 1980s, finished fourth in Colombia’s 2010 presidential election.

In a victory speech, Petro promised his governing attitude would embrace dialogue. He also told Colombian daily El Tiempo that his administration would transfer decision-making power “to the citizenry, by means of the budget and democratic participation.”

Petro’s message against corruption firmly resonates with bogotanos, particularly as Bogotá’s former mayor, Samuel Moreno, awaits a verdict after being indicted by Colombia’s inspector general last month on charges of fraudulent contracting, embezzlement and extortion regarding public works projects. Petro was instrumental in uncovering the scandal earlier this year. 

Aside from voting in in the capital district, Colombians went to the polls yesterday to vote for 32 governorships and 1,100 mayoralties and municipal council seats. Petro takes office in January.

Tags: Colombia, Bogota, Gustavo Petro

Nueve opciones para los votantes en Colombia

May 28, 2010

by Jenny Manrique

Colombia se acerca a la primera vuelta de una de las campañas presidenciales más emocionantes de los últimos años, pues tras la caída del referendo reeleccionista que le impidió al mandatario Álvaro Uribe aspirar a regir los destinos del país por otro periodo más, todas las predicciones resultaron desacertadas. Es cierto que el candidato que se muestra como su más fiel sucesor, Juan Manuel Santos, encabeza las encuestas de intención de voto y tiene un seguro lugar en la segunda vuelta del 20 de junio. Sin embargo, ni él, ni los gurús de la política, jamás imaginaron que el aspirante del Partido Verde, Antanas Mockus, le arrebatara de tal forma el electorado de opinión e hiciera tambalear a los estrategas de su campaña que optaron al final por traer al controvertido publicista venezolano J.J Rendón.

La corta contienda que comenzó prácticamente a fines de febrero, cuando se supo que la imbatible popularidad de Uribe (según el último sondeo de la firma Gallup al final de su mandato todavía conserva el 73 por ciento de imagen favorable) no se podría en todo caso medir a las urnas, ha tenido de todo: Desde propaganda negra hasta innumerables debates con preguntas predecibles y otras inteligentes; desde cierres de campaña fastuosos hasta la participación de desprevenidos ciudadanos que regalaron a su candidato favorito su creatividad a través de jingles y camisetas; desde mítines en plaza pública a la usanza de los discursos de antaño hasta miles de grupos de Facebook creados por simpatizantes para promover o derrotar candidaturas.

Sobre todas las cosas, algo que ha tenido esta contienda es un ramillete de aspirantes preparados quienes, salvo dos de ellos (Robinson Devia del Movimiento La Voz de la Conciencia y Jairo Calderón de Apertura Liberal) han tenido una larga carrera pública en el país y han demostrado ser opciones que entre gustos y disgustos, satisfacen a buena parte del electorado del país. Incluso Jaime Araujo candidato de la ASA, quien no aparece en las encuestas de intención de voto, fue un ilustre magistrado de la Corte Constitucional. La mayoría de ellos a excepción de Gustavo Petro, no proponen un cambio sustancial del modelo de país que dejará Alvaro Uribe a partir del 7 de agosto de 2010, pero por lo menos si quieren acabar con su mesianismo

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Tags: Juan Manuel Santos, Gustavo Petro, Rafael Pardo, Germán Vargas Lleras, Antanas Mockus, Noemi Sanin, Colombia elecciones

Triunfó el estado de derecho con la no reelección de Uribe

March 2, 2010

by Jenny Manrique

La noticia más esperada del último año en Colombia, se conoció por fin el pasado viernes: Una abrumadora mayoría, 7 de los 9 magistrados de la Corte Constitucional, hundió el referendo que hubiera permitido al presidente Álvaro Uribe aspirar a una segunda reelección. Pese a que en los últimos días, algunas fuentes del alto tribunal habían filtrado información según la cual, triunfaría la ponencia negativa que frente al tema había expuesto el magistrado Humberto Sierra Porto, todas las cábalas eran impredecibles hasta el pronunciamiento oficial. Es más, el viernes en la mañana se vio al secretario jurídico de la Presidencia, Edmundo del Castillo, en los pasillos de la Sala Plena, un hecho que se interpretó como una jugada para intentar cambiar algunos votos de los magistrados. Pero finalmente el estado de derecho triunfó sobre el estado de opinión del que hiciera eco Uribe, para significar que eran las mayorías quienes aclamaban de él un tercer mandato y por eso era inevitable aprobar el proyecto.

No obstante, la Corte encontró como insalvables algunos vicios que sucedieron durante el trámite para convocarlo: La financiación de la recolección de firmas para la consulta, la discusión del tema en el legislativo sin contar con el aval de la Registraduría para el trámite; el cambio de la pregunta durante las plenarias, pues a la gente se le pidió en la calle apoyo para la reelección de Uribe en 2014; el transfuguismo de cinco congresistas de Cambio Radical que se fueron a la U para votar la conciliación del referendo; y la forma como se convocaron las sesiones extras en el legislativo en diciembre de 2008.

Una ponencia de 437 páginas dio fin a los sueños reeleccionistas de un presidente que movió toda la maquinaria para quedarse en el poder y que, resignado, se reunió el mismo sábado con dos candidatos que no sólo pretenden encarnar su legado de la seguridad democrática y la confianza inversionista, sino que en una segunda vuelta harían una coalición para que éste no se pierda: Andrés Felipe Arias y Juan Manuel Santos.

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Tags: Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, Gustavo Petro, Corte Constitucional, Sergio Fajardo, Rafael Pardo, Germán Vargas Lleras, Andrés Felipe Arias

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