Gustavo Petro

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Gustavo Petro
Gustavo Petro Mayor of Bogota (cropped 3).jpg
Member of the Colombia Senate
Assumed office
July 20, 2018
In office
July 20, 2006 – July 20, 2010
797th Mayor of Bogotá
In office
April 23, 2014 – December 31, 2015
Preceded byMaría Mercedes Maldonado (Acting)
Succeeded byEnrique Peñalosa
In office
January 1, 2012 – March 19, 2014
Preceded byClara López Obregón
Succeeded byRafael Pardo (Acting)
Member of the Colombia House of Representatives
In office
July 20, 1998 – July 20, 2006
ConstituencyCapital District
In office
December 1, 1991 – July 20, 1994
Personal details
Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego

(1960-04-19) 19 April 1960 (age 61)
Ciénaga de Oro, Colombia
Political partyAlternative Way (1998–2002)
Regional Integration Movement (2002–2004)
Alternative Democratic Pole (2004–2010)
Humane Colombia (2011–present)
Spouse(s)Verónica Alcocer García
(m. 2003)
Mary Luz Herrán Cárdenas
(m. 1992; div. 2003)
ChildrenNicolás - Andrea, Andrés - Nicolás (Arbeláez), Sofía, Antonela
Alma materExternal University of Colombia
Graduate School of Public Administration
Pontifical Xavierian University
University of Salamanca
WebsiteOfficial website

Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡusˈtaβo fɾanˈsisko ˈpetɾo uˈreɣo]; born April 19, 1960) is a Colombian politician, ex guerrilla member and a presidential candidate who previously served as mayor of Bogotá. A left-wing politician, Petro was a member of the revolutionary group M-19 in the 1980s. The group later evolved into the Alianza Democrática M-19, a political party in which Petro participated as a member of the national congress in the 1990s. Petro served as a senator as a member of the Alternative Democratic Pole party following the 2006 legislative elections with the second largest vote in the country. In 2009, he resigned his position to aspire to the presidency of Colombia in the 2010 Colombian presidential election, finishing fourth in the race. His more recent results show great improvement, finishing second in the 2018 Colombian presidential election.

After problems and ideological differences with the leaders of the Alternative Democratic Pole, he founded the democratic socialist Progresistas movement to compete for the mayoralty of Bogotá, the Capital City of the country. On October 30, 2011, he was elected Mayor of Bogotá in the local elections of the city, a position he assumed on January 1, 2012.[1]

On May 27, 2018 he came second in the first round of the presidential election with over 25% of the votes and lost in the run-off election on June 17.

Early life[edit]

Petro was born in rural Ciénaga de Oro, in the department of Córdoba, in 1960. His parents were farmers. Seeking a better future, Petro's family decided to migrate to the more prosperous Colombian inland town of Zipaquirá – just north of Bogotá during the 1970s.[2]

Petro studied at the Colegio de Hermanos de La Salle, where he founded the student newspaper Carta al Pueblo ("Letter to the People"). At the age of 18 he became a member of the 19th of April Movement, and was involved in activities. During his time in 19 April Petro became a leader, and was elected ombudsman of Zipaquirá in 1981 and councilman from 1984 to 1986.

M-19 militancy[edit]

At a young age (around 17) Petro became a member of the 19th of April Movement (M-19),[3] a Colombian guerrilla organisation movement[4][circular reference] that emerged in 1974 in opposition to the National Front coalition after allegations of fraud in the 1970 presidential elections.

In 1985, Petro was arrested by the army for the crime of illegal possession of arms. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.[5][6]

Following the M-19's attack on the Palace of Justice Siege (Toma al Palacio de Justicia) Petro used his influence within M-19 to promote peace talks with the government, helping to bring about the eventual dismantling of M-19 in 1990, and the subsequent amnesty for its members.[2]


Petro graduated in economics from the Universidad Externado de Colombia and began graduate studies at the Escuela Superior de Administración Pública (ESAP). Later, he earned a master's degree in economics from the Universidad Javeriana.[7][8] He then traveled to Belgium, enrolling (but not graduating) in graduate studies in Economy and Human Rights in Université catholique de Louvain. He also has unfinished studies towards a doctoral degree in public administration from the University of Salamanca, in Spain.[9][10][11]

Early political career[edit]

After the demobilization of the M-19 guerrilla movement, former members of the group (including Petro) formed a political party called the M-19 Democratic Alliance which won a significant number of seats in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia in 1991, representing the Cundinamarca Department.[12]

In 2002, Petro was elected to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia representing Bogotá, this time as a member of the Vía Alterna political movement he founded with former guerrilla colleague Antonio Navarro Wolff and other former M-19 guerrilla members. During this period he was named "Best Congressman", both by his own Congress colleagues and the press.[13]

As a member of Vía Alterna, Petro created an electoral coalition with the Frente Social y Político to form the Independent Democratic Pole, which in 2005 fused with the Alternativa Democrática to form the Alternative Democratic Pole, joining a large number of leftist political figures.

In 2006, Petro was reelected Senator of Colombia, mobilizing the second highest voter turnout in the country.[14] During this year he also exposed the Parapolitics scandal, accusing members and followers of the government of mingling with paramilitary groups in order to "reclaim" Colombia.[citation needed]

Opposition to the Uribe Government[edit]

Senator Petro has vehemently opposed the government of Álvaro Uribe. In 2005, while a member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia, Petro denounced the lottery businesswoman Enilse López (also known as "La Gata" [the cat]). As of May 2009, she is imprisoned and under investigation for ties to the (now disbanded) paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Senator Petro alleged that the AUC financially contributed to the presidential campaign of Álvaro Uribe in 2002. Uribe refuted these statements by Petro but, during his presidential reelection campaign in 2006, admitted to having received financial support from Enilse López.[15]

During Álvaro Uribe's second term as president, Petro encouraged debate on the Parapolitics scandal. In February 2007 Petro began a public verbal dispute with President Uribe when Petro suggested that the president should have recused himself from negotiating the demobilization process of paramilitaries in Colombia; this followed accusations that Uribe's brother, Santiago Uribe, was a former member of the Twelve Apostles paramilitary group in the mid-1990s. President Uribe responded by accusing Petro of being a "terrorist in civilian clothing" and by summoning the opposition to an open debate.[16]

On April 17, 2007, Senator Petro began a debate in Congress about CONVIVIR and the development of paramilitarism in Antioquia Department. During a two-hour speech he revealed a variety of documents demonstrating the relationship between members of the Colombian military, the current political leadership, narcotraffickers and paramilitary groups. Petro also criticized the actions of Álvaro Uribe as Governor of Antioquia Department during the CONVIVIR years, and presented an old photograph of Álvaro Uribe's brother, Santiago, alongside Colombian drug trafficker Fabio Ochoa Vázquez.[17]

The Minister of Interior and Justice, Carlos Holguín Sardi and the Minister of Transport, Andrés Uriel Gallego were asked to defend the president and his government. Both of them questioned Petro's past as a guerrilla member and accused him of "not condemning the warfare of violent people". Most of Petro's arguments were condemned as mud-slinging. The day after this debate the president said "I would have been a great guerrilla, because I wouldn't have been a guerrilla of mud, but a guerrilla of rifles. I would have been a military success, not a fake protagonist".[18]

President Uribe's brother, Santiago Uribe, affirmed that his father and the Ochoa brothers had grown up together and were in the Paso Fino horse business together. He then mentioned that he also had many photographs, taken with many people.[19]

On April 18, 2007 the Vigilance and Security Superintendency released a communique rejecting Petro's accusations concerning the CONVIVIR groups. The Superintendency said that many of the groups mentioned were authorized by the Departments of Sucre and Córdoba, but not by the Antioquia government; it also added that Álvaro Uribe, then Antioquia's governor, had eliminated the legal liability of eight CONVIVIR groups in 1997. It was also mentioned that the paramilitary leader known as "Julian Bolívar" had not yet been identified as such and was not associated with any CONVIVIR during the authorization of these groups.[20]

Death threats[edit]

Petro has frequently reported threats against his life and the lives of his family, as well as persecution by government-run security organizations.[21] On May 7, 2007 the Colombian army captured two Colombian Army intelligence non-commissioned officers that had been spying on Petro and his family in the municipality of Tenjo, Cundinamarca. These members had first identified themselves as members of the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) the Colombian Intelligence Agency but their claims were later denied by Andrés Peñate, director of the agency.[22]

2010 Presidential campaign[edit]

In 2008, Petro announced his interest in a presidential candidacy for 2010.[23] He distanced himself from government policies and, along with Lucho Garzón and Maria Emma Mejia, led a dissenting faction within the Polo Democrático Alternativo. Following Garzón's resignation from the party, Petro proposed a "great national accord to end Colombia's war," based on removing organized crime from power, cleaning up the judicial system, land reform, democratic socialism and a security policy differing considerably from the policies of President Uribe. On 27 September 2009, Gustavo Petro defeated Carlos Gaviria in a primary election as the Alternative Democratic Pole candidate for the 2010 presidential election.

In the presidential election held on May 30, 2010, Petro did better than polls had predicted. He obtained a total of 1,331,267 votes, 9.1% of the total, finishing as the fourth candidate in the vote total, behind Germán Vargas Lleras and ahead of Noemí Sanín.

Mayoralty of Bogota[edit]

Mayor Petro in 2012.

During Petro's administration, measures such as the prohibition on the carrying of firearms were advanced, which led to the reduction of the homicide rate, reaching the lowest figure of the last two decades.[24][25] In his government, various interventions were carried out by the police in El Bronx sector of the city, where seizures of drugs and weapons were made. During the Petro administration, the Women's Secretariat was created and the LGBTI Citizenship Center was inaugurated, where 49 centers for birth control and abortion care were also created in cases permitted by law.[26]

It was proposed as a government policy to conserve the wetlands of Bogotá and plan for the preservation of water in the face of global warming. Following order of the Constitutional Court, began a process of suppression of animal-drawn vehicles used by waste pickers, some were replaced by automotive vehicles and subsidies. In the area of public health, Mobile Attention Centers for Drug Addicts (CAMAD) were created. With these measures, the aim was to reduce the dependency of the destitute in the streets of the sector to the providers of narcotic drugs, providing psychological and medical assistance. During its administration, the District put into operation two primary-care clinics at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, closed in 2001. The Mayor promised that he would allocate resources to purchase the Hospital grounds and reopen one of the buildings of the complex. The project remained stopped due to the Cundinamarca government's suspension of the sale of the properties. On February 11, 2015, as mayor of Bogotá, the protocol ceremony for the reopening of the San Juan de Dios Hospital Complex was finally formalized. The District bought the hospital with a view to reopening it. During his last month in office, before the liquidation of Saludcoop on December 1, 2015, the district had difficulties with the new patients who became part of the EPS Capital Salud.

In his government, the application of the Integrated Public Transport System (SITP) began, inaugurated in mid-2012. Likewise, during the administration of Petro, subsidies paid by the District to reduce Transmilenio tariffs were created. In turn, since early 2014 the administration provided a 40% subsidy for the value of the ticket for the population affiliated to SISBEN 1 and 2, for which it allocated 138 billion pesos. This subsidy is not delivered immediately, as it requires registration in a database, and is valid only for 21 passages when using the blue buses of the SITP.

The construction of a subway for the city was one undelivered proposal. During his administration, he contracted studies of the subway infrastructure to a Colombian-Spanish company for $70,000 million pesos, which successfully ended at the end of 2014. Approval from the federal government was necessary to begin construction, but the Santos' administration refused to authorize it. The subway plans contracted by Petro's administration were discarded by his successor Enrique Peñalosa, who opted for an elevated railway system with lower investment required and better coverage, allegedly. These claims have been refuted by several independent studies who have found out that both the social and economic cost of an elevated railway system is higher than the original underground railway system planned by the previous administration.


During his administration as mayor, he faced a recall process started by opposition parties and supported by the signatures of more than 600,000 citizens. After the legal verification 357,250[27] signatures were validated, many more than legally required to start the process.[28][29] On December 9, 2013, Petro was removed from his seat and banned from political activity for 15 years,[30] by Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado, following the sanctions stipulated by the law. His sanction was allegedly caused by mismanagement and illegal decrees signed during the implementation of his waste collection system.[31] This led to a series of protests citizens who deemed the Inspector's move as controversial, politically biased and un-democratic.[32][33]

Despite being granted an Injunction by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which suspended the sanction imposed by Inspector General Ordoñez, President Juan Manuel Santos upheld the removal and Petro was removed from office March 19, 2014.[34] For his temporary replacement, Santos appointed as Mayor the current Labor Minister, Rafael Pardo. On April 19, 2014, a magistrate from the Superior Tribunal of Bogota ordered the president to obey the recommendations laid out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Petro was reinstated as mayor on April 23, 2014 and finished the length of his term.

2018 presidential campaign[edit]

In 2018, Gustavo Petro was again a presidential candidate, this time getting the second best result in voting counting, in the first round (27 May 2018). With this vote, Petro advanced to the second round and became eligible to run for President of Colombia.[35] A lawsuit has been filed by citizens against Duque alleging bribery and fraud. The News chain Wradio made public the law suit July 11, which was presented to the CNE (Consejo Nacional Electoral, National Electoral Council, by its acronym in Spanish).[36] The state of the law suit will be defined by the Magistrado Alberto Yepes.

Petro's platform emphasized support for universal health care, public banking, rejecting proposals to expand fracking and mining in favor of investing in clean energy, and land reform.[37]

In the second round of voting, Petro's right-wing opponent, Iván Duque, won the election with more than 10 million votes, while Petro took second place with 8 million votes. Duque was inaugurated on August 7; meanwhile, Petro returned to the Colombian Senate.[38]

He received death threats from the paramilitary group Águilas Negras.[39]

Logo used during Petro's 2018 presidential campaign.


  1. ^ The former Colombian guerrilla leader was elected mayor of capital, Bogota - BBC News, 31 October 2011
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2012-04-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ 19th of April Movement
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Mayor of the Month; City Mayors; Adriana Maciel, Alidad Vassigh; June 2012
  8. ^ "Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-12-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Gustavo Petro, a political biography - Colombia Politics". Colombia Politics. 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  13. ^ Caracol Radio, El Congreso eligió a los mejores y peores de esta legislatura (in Spanish)
  14. ^ es.Wikinews, Resultados elecciones legislativas de 2006, march 2006
  15. ^ "Hay Gata encerrada" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  16. ^ El Tiempo, ¿Que se olviden del debate con Uribe? Dos ex miembros del M-19 hicieron reflexionar al Presidente[permanent dead link](in Spanish)
  17. ^ Las acusaciones de Petro (video)(in Spanish)
  18. ^ Presidente Álvaro Uribe responde a acusaciones de paramilitarismo del senador Gustavo Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  19. ^ Una foto de Santiago Uribe, hermano del presidente, con Jorge Luis Ochoa, fue mostrada por Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  20. ^ Superintendencia de Vigilancia salió en defensa del Presidente frente al debate de Gustavo Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  21. ^ "IACHR Annual Report 2008 - Chapter IV". Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  22. ^ Investigan a dos militares por espionaje a familia de Petro. El Espectador. 7 May 2007
  23. ^ "Gustavo Petro lanzó su candidatura en el Polo Democrático". Caracol Radio. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  24. ^ "Los aciertos del alcalde Gustavo Petro". Caracol Radio. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  25. ^ El Tiempo. "Bogotá, con la tasa de asesinatos más baja en 30 años". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  26. ^ "Nace centro público para atender abortos". El Espectador. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  27. ^
  28. ^,561de75a183ae310VgnVCM4000009bcceb0aRCRD.html
  29. ^ Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro sacked and banned from office - BBC News, 10 December 2013
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Thousands march for sacked Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro - BBC News, 14 December 2013
  34. ^ Bogota mayor loses fight to stay in office - Yahoo News, 19 March 2014
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-05-28. Retrieved 2018-05-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^
  37. ^ bogotapost (2018-05-22). "Presidential candidates: Gustavo Petro". The Bogotá Post. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  38. ^ Meet Gustavo Petro, Colombian Former Guerilla & Leftist Who Mounted Historic Campaign for Presidency; Democracy Now; Amy Goodman; August 10, 2018
  39. ^

External links[edit]