Financial Advisor, Political Analyst and Jolly Globetrotter Alex Rosen on mayors
Recently the mayors of two major cities in the western hemisphere have been in the news. Try to guess which one still has a job.
The first mayor was elected in 2010 on a platform of “putting people and families first, focusing on the fundamentals, reducing waste and eliminating unnecessary taxes.” He promised to reduce taxes while not cutting services. After he was elected he clarified that promise to mean no essential services.
Before being elected, he held the position of city councilor. While in this position, he was repeatedly cited for public intoxication including a DUI arrest, with possession of marijuana and he had been removed from a sporting event due to intoxication and belligerence.
Once elected mayor, this stalwart of the political world has repeatedly been cited for public intoxication. In March of 2013 a video surfaced of him smoking crack cocaine, which he justified by claiming when he drinks to excess, anything is possible as he cannot recall his actions.
The second mayor ran an unsuccessful campaign for president of his country before winning the election for mayor. He was elected on a platform of zero tolerance for government corruption. The opposition candidate was supported by the federal government.
Five years ago as a senator, he actively denounced fellow senators who colluded with a right-wing paramilitary group which was allegedly run by the president of the country.The subsequent investigation led to the conviction of five governors and 32 lawmakers including the cousin of the president.
While serving as mayor this man uncovered a bid rigging scandal that led to the arrest and conviction of the former mayor of his city. His recent efforts to restructure the city’s waste collection contracts led to a strike by the garbage collectors.
So who got canned?
For those of you still wondering whether it was the crack smoking, blackout-drunk mayor, or the zero tolerance for corruption mayor who got fired, naturally, it was the second one.
In all fairness the first one, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto, was stripped of all power. The second one though is Mayor Gustavo Petro of Bogota, and this is where the problem lies.
Officially Petro was sacked by the Inspector General’s office for irregularities in trash collection, but which mayor has not had to face down private garbage collectors?
The reality is Gustavo Petro found himself on the wrong side of the political fence in a country that is becoming more and more conservative. Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez is a close ally of former president Alvaro Uribe.
Uribe, a conservative who made his name as president by cracking down on leftist organizations inside and outside of the political framework, has long opposed Petro. It didn’t help that Petro previously outed Uribe’s cousin as a corrupt politician and was partially responsible for his conviction and imprisonment while Uribe was in office.
In addition to being removed from office, Petro is also barred from holding any other political office for the next 15 years. He does however have the right to appeal. Unfortunately the appeal would be heard by Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez.
Good luck on that one.
Petro got his start in Colombian politics at a young age joining M-19 as a teenager. At that point M-19 was an anti-government guerrilla group committed to a socialist, Bolivarian Colombia. However M-19 eventually gave up its military ambitions and became a political party by the late 1980s. It renounced armed conflict as a means for change.
Petro himself may have started as a guerrilla, but then went on to earn an economics degree from one of Colombia’s most prestigious universities and a Master’s Degree in Human Rights. He has been politically active for over three decades and was one of the founders of the Alianza Democrática M-19 political party.
As a member of congress, he was voted best congressman by his colleagues in part for his zero tolerance for corruption and willingness to expose fellow congressmen who were in bed with right-wing paramilitary groups.
The real issue here is that Petro has consistently opposed the central government’s right-leaning agenda and its willingness to at the very least overlook paramilitary human rights violations while vigorously prosecuting and oppressing left wing groups.
It is no secret that former president Uribe still has a heavy influence on the political landscape of Colombia, and has every intention of returning to Colombian politics in opposition to current president Juan Manuel Santos. The presence of Petro as mayor of Bogota and left wing crusader for justice and human rights has been and continues to be a thorn in Uribe’s side and would pose a serious threat to Uribe’s political ambitions moving forward.
In the last several years while many South American countries have been moving toward a more leftist or centrist government, Colombia has been hailed as a symbol of how free markets and strong central governments have led to a crackdown on violence political stability and increased economic growth.
As more and more Latin American countries try to broaden their horizons politically, Colombia has forged stronger ties with the United States. The removal of Petro, is a very negative reflection of the state of Colombian democracy. If politicians in opposition to the government can be removed arbitrarily without public consensus, then one has to question if this is really democracy at all. Now that Gustavo Petro is out of Colombian politics, he can move to Canada and run for mayor of Toronto.
Oh wait, they still have a mayor. Never mind.
Alex Rosen has acted as Wealth Advisor with Veritas Wealth Advisors, LLC and as a Political Analyst with Fundación Pensar in Argentina.
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