The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, said Thursday that the impeachment of former Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro will have negative consequences for the ongoing peace talks between the guerrillas and the government.
In spite of a ruling by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) urging against the dismissal, President Juan Manuel Santos has followed through with the removal of the leftist mayor, declaring the move to be consistent with all Colombian law.
A “very negative impact” on peace talks
The FARC’s chief negotiator in Havana, “Ivan Marquez,” said during the guerrillas daily press conference that the decision will adversely affect what has already been agreed upon in a previous round of talks concerning the issue of political participation.
If this proves to be true it would be a major blow to the peace talks as the issue of political participation was the second of five points to be discussed at the negotiating table, and the rebel agreement to give up use of arms to reach political goals was seen as a major and unprecedented breakthrough when the deal was reached back in November 2013.
“We deplore this absurd political decision of the president who has taken the Bogota Mayor’s Office in a coup,” Marquez said.
According to the rebel leader, Santos’ signing off on the impeachment will have ”a very negative impact on the talks” and seriously affects the “confidence and certainty of what is being approved.”
Marquez highlighted the irony behind the decision to, on one hand, “expand democracy in Colombia” by agreeing to the second point of political participation, whilst, on the other, acting in such an unconstitutional and undemocratic way by removing Petro from office.
“Arbitrary and unjust”
That Petro is a former left-wing guerrilla is also seen as significant and Marquez confirmed what many people believe to be a politically motivated decision, by declaring that Santos’ decision serves an “electoral purpose.”
With Petro now banned from public office for 15 years and with a staunch Santos ally, Rafael Pardo, acting as interim Bogota mayor, the president has effectively consolidated his hold on power in the country.
“We can now say very respectfully that the mafia of the right has taken power” affirmed Marquez.
Marquez also dealt some parting shots to Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez who initially dismissed the mayor in December.
The FARC leader accused Ordoñez of being an “arbitrary and unjust official” who “only punishes opponents of the regime.”
The decision to remove Petro further complicates what has already been a difficult and tense week as the negotiations enter their 22nd round, with the murder of two police officers in southwestern Colombia and the kidnapping of five oil workers in the center of the country.
The peace talks, which began on November 19 last year and were organized primarily by the incumbent Santos’ administration, represent the fourth formal attempt at peace talks with the FARC and guerrilla groups since the beginning of the armed conflict in 1964.
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