The Colombian Inspector General’s Office on Monday ousted Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro and prohibited him from engaging in public functions for 15 years as a result of his handling of a crisis that broke in 2012 regarding trash collection problems.
The mayor harmed “the principle of freedom of enterprise” and put at risk “the environment and human health of the residents of Bogota,” Inspector-General Alejandro Ordoñez said, reading from a prepared statement.
Petro, 53, described the decision as a coup.
“Can an administrative authority that is not part of the judicial branch fire someone who was elected by popular vote?” he asked rhetorically on Twitter.
The IG’s office began a disciplinary investigation of Petro on Jan. 16 after Bogota was inundated with trash for several days in December 2012 due to difficulties in implementing a new system of waste collection decided upon by the mayor’s office.
Petro did not renew the contracts of four private waste collectors and placed that task in the hands of the municipal water company, which wound up needing the help of former concessionaires.
The ruling can be appealed, but only to the IG’s office, which could convene a fresh mayoral election in Bogota as early as mid-February.
Petro, a former guerrilla with M-19 who was elected mayor in 2011, suggested that the IG’s office was trying to intimidate other municipal governments that might be interested in reasserting public control over public services.
“Does it mean that here a message is being sent to the country, to all mayors, that recovering public power is a crime ... or an irregularity?” he asked.