Gustavo Petro

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Gustavo Petro
Petro U Gustavo.JPG
797th Mayor of Bogotá
In office
April 23, 2014 – December 31, 2015
Preceded by María Mercedes Maldonado (Acting Mayor)
Succeeded by Enrique Peñalosa Londoño
In office
January 1, 2012 – March 19, 2014
Preceded by Clara López Obregón
Succeeded by Rafael Pardo (Acting Mayor)
Senator of Colombia
In office
July 20, 2006 – July 20, 2010
Constituency Capital District
Member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia
In office
July 20, 1998 – July 20, 2006
In office
December 1, 1991 – July 20, 1994
Constituency Cundinamarca Department
Personal details
Born Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego
(1960-04-19) 19 April 1960 (age 57)
Ciénaga de Oro, Córdoba, Colombia
Nationality Colombian
Political party Progressivists Movement (2011–present)
Other political
Alternative Democratic Pole (2004–2010)
Regional Integration Movement (2002–2004)
Alternative Way (1998–2002)
Spouse(s) Mari Luz Herrán Cardenas
Verónica Alcocer García
Alma mater Universidad Externado de Colombia, Pontifical Xavierian University, University of Salamanca
Profession Economist

Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego (born April 19, 1960) is a Colombian politician and economist. He was mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. In his youth, he was a member of the militant guerrilla group 19th of April Movement, which later evolved into the Alianza Democrática M-19, a political party in which Petro also participated. Years later he would become the presidential candidate for the Alternative Democratic Pole in the 2010 Colombian election, but placed fourth in the election after the now President Juan Manuel Santos, Antanas Mockus and German Vargas Lleras respectively. In 2011 Petro ran for Mayor as a member of the Movimiento Progresistas (Progresistas Movement). He won the election for Mayor of Bogotá, the second most important position in Colombian executive power, garnering 32% of the vote and defeating former mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Gina Parody, and Carlos Fernando Galán.[1]

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[2] signatures were validated, many more than legally required to start the process.[3][4] On December 9, 2013, Petro was removed from his seat and banned from political activity for 15 years,[5] 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.[6] This led to a series of protests citizens who deemed the Inspector's move as controversial, politically biased and un-democratic.[7][8]

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.[9] 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.

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.[10]

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 military and political 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,[11] a guerrilla group that emerged in 1974 in opposition to the National Front coalition after allegations of fraud in the 1970 presidential elections.

During Petro's militancy in the M-19 guerrilla, the following human rights' violations were among the most memorable committed by this armed group, although there is no evidence that Petro was involved directly in any of these actions: the siege of the Palace of Justice at Bolivar Plaza in Bogota on November 6, 1985. At least 53 civilian casualties were registered, including several members of Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice. The siege has been catalogued as a holocaust and massacre by the Interamerican Human Rights' Court.[12] Other crimes include the siege of the Dominican Republic Embassy, the kidnapping and murder of the Afro-Colombian union leader José Raquel Mercado,[13] of businessman Hugo Ferreira Neira,[14] of the CEO of a petroleum company Nicolás Escobar Soto, who was buried alive in a "people's prison", a cave where his skin got completely covered with fungi before being assassinated.[15] Perhaps the best remembered kidnapping was that of Álvaro Gómez Hurtado: leader of the Colombian conservative party, presidential candidate and director of the newspaper El Siglo.[16]

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.[17][18]

Following the M-19's infamous 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.[10] He recently has refused to admit his responsibility for the crimes committed during his participation in the M-19, claiming that the guerrilla group was rather a victim of the government.[19]


After M-19 disbanded, Petro graduated with a degree 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.[20] He then traveled to Belgium, enrolling in graduate studies in Economy and Human Rights in Leuven. He also has a doctoral degree in public administration from the University of Salamanca.[21][22][23]

Political career[edit]

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

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.[24]

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.[25] 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.

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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".[29]

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.[30]

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.[31]

Criticism of FARC[edit]

Senator Gustavo Petro has publicly criticized the FARC guerrilla group.

In a September 5, 2007 interview for the Colombian newsweekly magazine Revista Cambio, Petro argued that "the FARC are insensitive to the calls of both the international community and Colombian society, because they have lost contact with the world after the assassinations of UP members. And since they don't need social and popular support any longer (because they make their living from the drug trade), that increases their insensitivity".[32] During that same interview, Petro compared the FARC to Pol Pot and stated that "FARC aren't revolutionaries, they aren't left– but right-wing and they are criminals".[32]

Petro was among those who participated in a 4 February 2008 worldwide demonstration against the FARC. His political party's leaders officially decided not to do so, voting 18 to 3 against an initial proposal made by Petro. The senator had previously met with the organizers of the march, asking them why the event was only against FARC and not the paramilitary forces or the ELN. After he decided to participate, according to Petro, the "traditional left" labeled him as an "Uribist". Senator Petro later stated that "this is a demonstration against kidnappings and against the FARC, and it is clear that the democratic expression of the citizenry cannot be stopped".[33]

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. 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.[34]

2010 Presidential campaign[edit]

In 2008, Petro announced his interest in a presidential candidacy for 2010.[35] 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 Alvaro 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 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.

Mayor of Bogotá[edit]

In 2011 Gustavo Petro was elected Mayor of Bogotá. During his term his reputation has been seriously damaged and his popularity has been low, ranging between 29% and 50%.[36][37] The Economist criticized his authoritarian style and described Mayor Petro as an arrogant person, who alienated some of his closest supporters as well as many citizens.[38] He has, however, received strong support from the Animal Rights and LGBTI rights sectors, as many of his policies were focused on the protection of animals, improving discrimination against minorities.[39]

His administration has been plagued by multiple scandals and his popularity has dropped sharply. The citizens of Bogotá, led by Representative Miguel Gómez Martínez, have started a process to recall his mandate. 630.623 signatures has been collected and presented to responsible authority (national civil registry), which validated 357.250 of them, much more than the legally required to start the recall process.[40] Petro's party, Progresistas, tried to undermine the process and refused to recognize the decision taken by the National Civil Registry. On December 19, 2013, The National Registrator, Carlos Ariel Sánchez validated the signatures and the Recall Poll must be called in a two months term after a formal notification. Petro in his Twitter account claimed that he and his legal team will not delay the process.[41] The team surrounding him, however, managed to get access to the database of the persons that signed supporting the derogatory referendum. Later the signs and names of those citizens were published in internet using a site called[42] Using multiple strategies and legal actions, his supporters managed to delay the process so that the democratic referendum never took place.

In spite of the warnings of multiple associations, scholars and regulatory agencies, on August the 26th Gustavo Petro signed a decree to set a new zoning plan for the city of Bogota.[43] The new zoning plan was rejected early in 2013 by the city´s council, which is the entitled entity to modify or set a new zoning plan. Therefore, the legality of this decision has been questioned by the control entities, some of which already submitted lawsuits against the new plan.[44]

His attempt to create a single public operator for Bogota waste collection failed partially and forced him to renegotiate the former contracts with private operators. For the implementation of the new model, Mayor Petro was forced to rent and import at the last moment, used waste collections vehicles from the United States, whose mechanical and sanitary conditions were evidently poor. His administration ordered 278 waste collection trucks, but due to miscalculations 60 trucks are not being used. Additionally he signed a decree that allowed the collection of waste in dump trucks, a practice explicitly forbidden by Colombian law. One operator died while collecting waste in a dump truck. The public operator has been declared illegal by several regulatory agencies and an investigation was opened.[45]

The Office of the Inspector General of Colombia on December 9, 2013, who considered the new waste collection system as improvised and hazardous to Bogota's population and an attack on free market competition, and therefore decided to strip Petro from his position and ban him from public posts for 15 years.[46] Polling showed that most Colombians opposed his dismissal by General Inspector Ordonez.[47] The decision was appealed by Petro's legal defense team (including a lawsuit filed against Inspector Ordóñez in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights[48]), and was initially upheld.[49] After being informally notified of his dismissal, Petro invited his supporters to join him in the Bolívar Square to publicly denounce Inspector Ordóñez ruling as part of a massive conspiracy to stop left-wing political parties from holding power, an attempt to damage the ongoing Havana's Peace talks with the FARC and to perpetuate corrupt structures who would benefit from Petro's departure.[50] Ordóñez was identified as a 'rightist' by the New York Times, and his ideological hostility to Petro was well known.[51] He hired buses to bring 15,000 supporters to the Square in protest.[52] Petro was reinstated as Mayor after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled in Petro's favour.[51]


  1. ^ The former Colombian rebel was elected mayor of capital, Bogota - BBC News, 31 October 2011
  2. ^
  3. ^,561de75a183ae310VgnVCM4000009bcceb0aRCRD.html
  4. ^
  5. ^ Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro sacked and banned from office - BBC News, 10 December 2013
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Thousands march for sacked Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro - BBC News, 14 December 2013
  9. ^ Bogota mayor loses fight to stay in office - Yahoo News, 19 March 2014
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ Comision de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos: Caso 10738: Holocausto del Palacio de Justicia. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-02-01.
  13. ^ "Víctimas del Comunismo. Memoria Histórica 2". March 27, 2011. 
  14. ^ RESTREPO, Laura y GONZÁLEZ, Camilo. Colombia, Historia de una Traición. 1986, p. 124.
  15. ^ "EL OSCURO PASADO DE UN CALUMNIADOR". Centro de Análisis Sociopolitico. 
  16. ^ CARDONA, Jorge. Dias de Memoria, Editorial Aguilar, 2009. p. 199
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Mayor of the Month; City Mayors; Adriana Maciel, Alidad Vassigh; June 2012
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Caracol Radio, El Congreso eligió a los mejores y peores de esta legislatura (in Spanish)
  25. ^ es.Wikinews, Resultados elecciones legislativas de 2006, march 2006
  26. ^ "Hay Gata encerrada" (in Spanish). Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  27. ^ El Tiempo, ¿Que se olviden del debate con Uribe? Dos ex miembros del M-19 hicieron reflexionar al Presidente(in Spanish)
  28. ^ Las acusaciones de Petro (video)(in Spanish)
  29. ^ Presidente Álvaro Uribe responde a acusaciones de paramilitarismo del senador Gustavo Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  30. ^ Una foto de Santiago Uribe, hermano del presidente, con Jorge Luis Ochoa, fue mostrada por Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  31. ^ Superintendencia de Vigilancia salió en defensa del Presidente frente al debate de Gustavo Petro. El Tiempo. April 18, 2007
  32. ^ a b Revista Cambio. "La lucha del Polo no debe ser contra Uribe" 5 September 2007. Available online. Retrieved 26 February 2008.(in Spanish)
  33. ^ El Tiempo. 3 February 2008. "Marchar o no marchar, esa fue la cuestión del Polo". Retrieved 11 February 2008.(in Spanish)
  34. ^ Investigan a dos militares por espionaje a familia de Petro. El Espectador. 7 May 2007
  35. ^ "Gustavo Petro lanzó su candidatura en el Polo Democrático". Caracol Radio. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2009. 
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "A load of rubbish". The economist. Jan 12, 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ "The waste management system does not meet the legal requirements of the public service law.". Superintendencia de servicios públicos. March 6, 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  46. ^
  47. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ a b
  52. ^

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