Bogota mayor loses appeal to keep job, calls for national protests

Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro is calling for national protests after the Inspector General’s Office Monday ratified a ruling that will oust the one-time guerrilla and presidential candidate from office and ban him from politics for 15 years.

It’s not clear when the ruling will take effect and Petro maintains that his ouster isn’t official until President Juan Manuel Santos ratifies it.

"From Bogotá we call on all the democratic forces of the country and all the citizens to mobilize against this coup," Petro wrote on Twitter shortly after the announcement was made.

Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez maintains Petro violated the constitution and broke environmental regulations when he ordered the city to take over trash collection in 2012. The transition was messy, leaving tons of garbage in the streets for a few days and forcing the city to use dump trucks due to the lack of garbage trucks.

But Petro maintains the move is saving the city money and was needed to comply with a requirement that informal recyclers be integrated into the waste-collection system. He has also said that he’s being targeted for his progressive, left-wing politics and accused Ordóñez of mounting a "right-wing coup."

Petro’s removal means this chaotic city of 7 million will be forced into a special election during an already packed political period. Legislative elections will be held in March and presidential elections will be held in May. The sudden opening of Colombia’s second-most powerful elected office is expected to shakeup up both those races as candidates throw their hat in the ring for the mayor’s job.

After Ordóñez made his initial ruling Dec. 9, Petro has held mass rallies in the central plaza and taken his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He was also facing a recall vote on March 2.

Petro, a member of the now-defunct M-19 rebel group and a former crusading senator, was seen as a model for what guerrillas who put down their arms might achieve in politics. His case will certainly resonate in Havana where the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are hammering out a peace deal that also includes their political rights.

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