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Colombia Travel Blog

By JL Pastor & See Colombia Travel

Jul 03

What To Make of Bogota’s Mayor, Gustavo Petro.

Gustavo-Petro

Gustavo Petro, the (still, just) current holder of the third biggest job in Colombia (behind that of the President, and, of course, writing for See Colombia Travel) is many things to many people. But, what kind of person is he, exactly?

It depends who you talk to you, it seems. He’s either a Son of Peace, set on destroying the old, corrupt, machine of oligarchy that has been plaguing Colombia for far too long; or he’s an arrogant, bumbling, joke of a politician who can’t even work out how to pick up his own trash.

He’s either setting the Old Bailey alight, heralding a new era of responsibility, transparency and fairness; or he’s a myopic antihero tilting at windmills.

 

Who is Gus Petro, really?

Who is Gus Petro, really?

 

Whatever he is, he’s definitely come a long way from his peasant farming roots. And, being mayor hasn’t been easy for him. While, on the one hand, he’s banned bull-fighting, circus animals, and firearms; he’s also been dogged at every turn by scathing attacks on his questionable leadership in issues ranging from rubbish collection to the “integrated” bus system. He’s currently facing possible impeachment, after a petition has been lodged with more signatures than it needs to start that process.

His grasp may well be uncertain and contested, but Petro is sure to remain tenacious and outspoken. And, we want you to be the same. What do you think of this man, Petro? Is he just a guy with maybe a few good ideas, but no idea how to put them into action; or a breath of fresh air in a political landscape otherwise filled with corruption-ridden cronies? Is he a hopeless Don Quixote; or a V with a righteous vendetta?

The comment field is below. Please use it wisely.

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments on “What To Make of Bogota’s Mayor, Gustavo Petro.

Paul Giles says:

Rafael,
It’s true: any time where it appears like a leader is battling people lower down his own hierarchy, you’d have to question some of the leadership skills of this person, especially if your job is, as a mayor’s is, essentially to do with managing people. Taking this into account, the question could be asked; is he just a bad judge of character, a bad communicator and bureaucrat, or are good people just hard to come by around here?
For me, having to ask questions like that is a bit of a shame, because what I do like about the Idea (at least) of someone like Gustavo Petro, is that he doesn’t represent the old families (oligarchy, some might be tempted to say) that appear to dominate many aspects of Colombian public society. It could be argued that anyone outside of this power structure is going to find it hard to do what they want if things are really that controlled. I hope that’s just an overly pessimistic argument, though: like that old song, times they are a-changing…

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Rafael says:

The bureocracy comment is an interesting one. This is especially so if you consider that a mayor should be hiring capable, experienced people who knows what they’re talking about. You could argue that maybe the courts or opposing public servants have it against him. This argument can only go so far, though. High level policy-making requires high level research, thought and competent staff. There’s an episode some time ago where Petro submitted some sort of document and this lady (the head of that department) went on public record to tell Petro that that’s not the proper channel and should’ve been done differently. The fault probably falls on his advisers for not knowing the procedure. But, boy, was that ever embarrassing.

In regards to your other comment, I’d say in the case of Bogota depends. Of all the members of my family residing in Bogota, every one of them support Petro. They’re not poor by any strech of the imagination. They’re, however, a typical family from Bogota (meaning, either they’ve lived in Bogota for a long time or were born there). Things would be different if they’re from the provinces (that is, those outside of Bogota). In short, people from Bogota seem to have no major issues supporting politicians from certain backgrounds/ political leanings whereas people from the provinces would not support them.

In any case, lots of poor people in Colombia have seemingly conservative views, and lots of people from more affluent backgrounds are more progressive. Then again, the opposite is also true.

Posted on - Reply

Paul Giles says:

Rafael,
Incisive and insightful as always, sir!
I really get the feeling that Petro seems to have a lot of trouble battling with the many layers of bureaucracy that can tend to weigh down things here in Colombia. One example is the empty blue busses – part of the “integrated” transport system here – that one can see being driven in lonely sadness around the streets of Bogota. As is sometimes the criticism of Petro, these seem like a good idea, but lose something in their execution. I wonder what exactly’s going on in such situations: where along the chain of command does the blame lie here?
I’ve asked a lot of Colombians what they think, and it’s incredible how different the responses are – along a whole spectrum from utter contempt to rapt enthusiasm. I sometimes suspect that it’s nearly as simple as a matter of geography: those in Bogota’s south tend to support him; those in the north often don’t. Is that too utterly simplistic a view?

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Rafael says:

Personally, Petro has been a very interesting mayor. He has interesting ideas and has put his values into real action. My personal belief is that some people are not giving him a chance to prove himself, and are using his past to defend this position. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so, while seemingly unlikely, I’m going to go ahead and believe him when he stated he never used a firearm while he was a member of a guerrilla group.

One legitimate piece of criticism is that he has mistaken the legal procedures of some of his proposals. By this I mean, he submits a piece of legislation to the wrong office or seems to forget/ ignore that there are certain steps every piece of legislation takes, which cannot be skipped. Then again, I’ve come to conclude this is a problem faced by opposition parties who suddenly get in power. They criticize past governments for so and so, but then they get in power and see what really goes behind doors (interest groups, real hard data that cannot be ignored, etc). For instance, take the university tuition situation in Quebec, Canada. The Parti Quebecois got in power claiming they wouldn’t increase tuition, only to have to retreat that promise as they learned the true extent of the reality (of course, there’s a dialogue going between government and students so there’s no protests).

In any case, I 100% agree with his banning firearms, Colombians are way too overreactive and impulsive to get to hold guns… Funny how that sounds like this is what it’s really influencing his being impeached.

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