EL ESPECTADOR

A Not-So-Fond Farewell To Bogota's Disastrous Mayor

Gustavo Petro, the former Marxist guerrilla who became Bogotá's mayor for the poor, has left the Colombian capital a wreck. But he's on the way in favor of a newly elected leader voters hope will put the city back on track.

Chao, Gustavo Petro
Chao, Gustavo Petro
Aura Lucía Mera

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ Without a tear it seems, Bogotá is bidding farewell to its passionate, and combative, socialist Mayor Gustavo Petro. I think our city's residents are applauding the Oct. 25 electoral defeat of his political backers, Democratic Pole, which lost its bearings a while back, and the Progressives, who have managed to impose chaos on the Colombian capital.

I feel a little sorry for their mayoral candidate Clara López Obregón, an intelligent woman, bold and well prepared, who nevertheless failed to notice the massive corruption surrounding public contracts in the last city government, during which she was government secretary.

Petro is something else. He was an excellent senator and had the guts to uncover some rotten apples — even political horrors here and there — but as mayor of Bogotá, he has been a veritable disaster. He devoted the biggest chunk of his time to fighting and defending himself, to constantly reshuffling his cabinet and indulging in cheap populism, while the capital's problems such as traffic, planning, health care and the environment were spinning out of control.

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Traffic in Bogota — Photo: Edgar Jiménez

He has left everyone with a bitter taste in their mouths. His pride, social resentments, pathological inability to criticize himself or reconsider his conduct, stubbornness and failure to intelligently resolve situations eventually robbed him of standing and authority. You might say Petro has become persona non grata in Bogotá.

In these elections, the Left has paid for the excesses of all its governments so far. The late, great socialist thinker and jurist Carlos Gaviria, who later became a Colombia senator, regrettably had to witness in Petro's government the demise of his progressive programs. A motley crew of intransigent fools, populists, crooks and carpetbaggers threw away the opportunity for opening a new ideological space in this country.

Let me congratulate Mayor-elect Enrique Peñalosa, who served before as mayor, from 1998 to 2001. Bogotá finally realized it needed him at the helm again, though unfortunately, only when its residents realized it was a sinking ship. They wasted years allowing themselves to be seduced by the hypnotic singing of sirens with an agenda.

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Mayor-elect Enrique Peñalosa — Photo: Dodo

I congratulate but do not envy Peñalosa. He will take over a city eaten away by despair, choking traffic, rage and impotence. Had he been mayor four or eight years ago, it would be a different story. He left a city full of progress and innovations, and has now returned to find that his home has fallen years behind.

The government's candidate, Rafael Pardo, would also have been a good mayor, someone who is serious, honest and sensible. Had he formed a single front with Peñalosa, the populist Left's defeat would have turned into an upset.

Let's hope the Left can one day get its act together. It hasn't so far, and how could it when its egos are bigger than its ideas?

For now, as that children's song goes, "In A While, Crocodile."

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