¡Petro se queda!

[Petro is staying!]


On December 9, 2013, the Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, was removed from office by Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez. Ordoñez accused Petro of mismanagement of waste collection contracts, and prohibited him from holding public office for 15 years. This excessive measure provoked an immediate outcry. At first, a battle began in the legal arena, but the fight was above all political, and interest on the street quickly grew. Protesters gathered for several weeks in the capital’s main plaza, Plaza de Bolívar, to lend support to Petro as he became a symbol for the Left in his stand-off against Ordoñez, an official who was not elected by popular vote and represents the most conservative tendencies of the country.

Support for Petro went far beyond approval of his public policies. As the peace process began, support for his administration was also the defense of a new dynamic for Colombian democracy. The history of this country is littered with the bodies of grassroots leaders who have chosen a commitment to civilian life and been murdered for coming too close to the gates of power. Petro is a former senator. He is also a former member of the M19 guerrilla movement, and his removal from office is emblematic of the constant barriers to integrating the left opposition into civilian political life.

Countless supporters accompanied Petro when he began his speech from the balcony of city hall. Anonymous individuals with masks depicting the Mayor and a colorful crowd of all ages: residents of poor outlying neighborhoods, public sector workers, street artists, LGTBI activists, communists, union activists, students. They all shared a gaze full of determination and hope, returning every night to the balcony. They explain that they refuse to allow their voice to be taken away from them. This series refers to them and to their expectations for changes in political representation in Colombia.

The legal battle was finally resolved in late April, 2014. After several new developments, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reinstated Petro as mayor following a decisive recommendation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This reversal of Petro’s situation finally provided him with a stable position on the political stage.