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Colombian president dismisses mayor of Bogota

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-20

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday dismissed Bogota's mayor, Gustavo Petro, defying warnings from regional human rights monitors. Petro reacted by calling on hundreds of supporters to launch a general strike.

A former leftist guerrilla, Petro says that President Santos, a conservative, is targeting him for political reasons.

"The Colombian people should go on general strike, and peacefully so," Petro told a rally of about 1,500 supporters.

Judges from Colombia's top court on Tuesday upheld an October 28 order by the country's inspector-general removing Petro, 53, from office over his handling of the city's garbage collection contracts.

Under Colombia's political system, the independent inspector-general has the power to remove elected officials for malfeasance.

The inspector-general said Petro had abused his powers by eliminating private garbage collection contracts to replace them with a city-run service.

The Inter-American Commission Human Rights on Wednesday asked Colombia to drop the order to oust Petro and let him serve out his term. It also called on Bogota to take "precautionary measures" to guarantee Petro's political rights.

But Santos rejected the international body's request and named Rafael Pardo Rueda, the current labour minister, as Petro's replacement.

A former leader of the now defunct M-19 guerrilla group, Petro had argued that the example set by his removal from office would have an adverse effect on prospects for peace in Colombia, a country torn apart by rebel insurgencies for the past half century.

The Santos government is currently holding peace talks in Havana with the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the country's oldest and largest guerrilla group.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-03-20

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