BOGOTA – A referendum to recall embattled Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro will be held on March 2, Colombian electoral authorities said Friday.
Leading the push to recall Petro is Miguel Gomez Martinez, who represents part of Bogota in the Colombian Congress and is a member of President Juan Manuel Santos’ conservative Party of the U.
The recall effort needed to collect signatures from at least 289,263 registered voters in Bogota. The campaign presented 641,707 signatures, of which 357,250 were deemed valid, election officials said.
For the recall vote to count, turnout must equal 55 percent or more of the 2.24 million ballots cast in the 2011 mayoral election.
Assuming that threshold is met, a simple majority will suffice to remove the leftist mayor.
Earlier this week, Petro filed a legal challenge to Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s fitness to rule on the mayor’s appeal of an IG office decision to remove him from office.
Ordoñez, a prominent member of the Catholic right, is biased against him, Petro said in a complaint presented to the Attorney General’s Office.
The IG office published an edict last week formally notifying Petro that he is to be removed from office for mismanagement.
The sanction, prompted by a December 2012 waste management crisis, was announced Dec. 9 and bars the 53-year-old mayor from holding any public post for 15 years.
Petro, a one-time guerrilla and former senator, is pursuing a dual-track: asking the IG office to review its decision while simultaneously seeking to have the matter removed from Ordoñez’s jurisdiction.
The mayor wants the ruling to be reviewed by a special prosecutor who does not answer to Ordoñez.
Trash piled up in Bogota for several days in December 2012 after Petro decided to shift responsibility for waste management from four private firms to the municipal water company.
The mayor harmed “the principle of freedom of enterprise” and put at risk “the environment and human health of the residents of Bogota,” Ordoñez said in announcing his ruling.
The decision has been roundly criticized in Colombia and abroad, with even Petro’s political foes accusing Ordoñez of having gone too far.
Supporters of Petro organized protests in Bogota and Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre launched an investigation of Ordoñez’s handling of the case.
Ordoñez “holds the most intimate conviction that a good ‘soldier of Christ’ must combat with all possible weapons the impiety represented by the leftist ideology that the mayor represents,” Petro’s brief said.
“For Alejandro Ordoñez, I represent ‘atheistic communism,’ one of the fundamental enemies of ‘the re-Christianization of the world’ that the inspector general proposes,” Petro wrote.