Bogota: The race for mayor

By bogotapost October 21, 2015

Bogotta Mayoral ElectionsDaniel Steel takes a look at what’s at stake in the Bogotá mayoral elections – analysing where the four leading candidates stand on five key issues: Security, Mobility & Transport, Tourism, Parks & Environment, Diversity & Inclusion

The candidates


Enrique Peñalosa

Equipo por Bogotá



Rafael Pardo

Partido Liberal



Clara López

Polo Democrático



Francisco Santos

Centro Democrático



Ricardo Arias

Movimiento Grupo Significativo de Ciudadanos Libres


Bogota Mayoral Elections

Daniel Raisbeck

Movimiento Libertario


Alex Vernot

Movimiento Ciudadano Pueblo, Tierra y Futuro


Figures based on latest Gallup poll (September 28-October 3) at time of going to press


Whatever survey you look at, security – rather insecurity – is the top concern for voters. According to Ipsos, 82% of Bogotanos believe this should be the number one priority for the new mayor, so all the hopefuls are keen to push their law and order credentials. The basic ingredients are pretty similar: more cameras, more police, more prosecution. But there are also some interesting differences.

crimePeñalosa – Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” in the Peñalosa manifesto reflects his prevention-based strategy. He plans to construct “mega community centres” providing recreation, culture and art centres for vulnerable youths. He proposes to strengthen the existing police force rather than setting up new bodies.

Pardo – Pardo, who served as minister of defence during Gaviria’s presidency, puts improving policing in quadrants with historically high levels of homicides at the top of the agenda. He wants to create an “urban guard” – a body of 5,000 officials who will complement the police and be tasked with making Bogotá an “organised city” as well as dealing with minor infractions such as littering.

López – López promises to be tough on crime as well as introducing re-socialisation programmes, such as the construction of public educational systems, employment, recreation and urban regeneration as a method of preventing crime. She commits to fight against criminality and protect the administration from corruption.

Santos – ‘Democratic urban security’ is the tagline for Santos’ Centro Democratico proposal. It calls for the mayor to be “the first police officer of Bogotá”, the formation of a Security Secretariat and most importantly the introduction of a civil police force of 6,000 officers, plus an additional 10,000 policemen.

Mobility & Transport

For anyone living in Bogotá, talking about transport is like British people talking about the weather. So it’s hardly surprising that this hot topic, that affects not only the quality of life for individuals but also the economic growth of the city, is the second biggest concern for voters – 57% think the next mayor needs to take action.

Peñalosa – Like all candidates Peñalosa promises to construct the first line of the metro. He wants to focus on expanding his ‘brainchild’, the Transmilenio, with the construction of new lines. He loves his bike, declaring cyclists ‘civic heroes’ and wants to get 15% of Bogotanos using them by 2020.

Pardo – Commits to prioritise improvements to Bogotá’s road network and pledges to construct a cable car system for Ciudad Bolivar. Pardo wants to improve taxi services by deploying GPS, electronic payments and customer satisfaction ratings; a system that sounds strikingly similar to Uber.

López – Clara’s answer to the chaos of Transmilenio is “mobility culture” – teaching citizens to respect one another and love the city. She wants to introduce certificates of mental and physical health for Transmilenio drivers. She will continue the project to construct an inter-departmental train system.

Santos – Lays out his plan to guarantee the safety of the two million Transmilenio users with 1,300 more police in stations. He wants to build urban toll roads through public-private initiatives (PPI) to reduce congestion and finance the public transport system.




With Avianca’s introduction of direct flights between London and Bogotá and Forbes naming Colombia one of the 10 coolest places to visit in 2015, tourism is firmly on rise. How is the next mayor going make the most of the increasing number of international visitors?

Peñalosa – Will look to make Bogotá the “principal tourist” destination of Colombia with international cultural workshops. Plans to generate tourism include ecological hiking, regional and district parks and the Bogotá river project.

Pardo – Backs a technological platform that citizens can access with information of public and private offers of recreation, sport, culture and tourism. Affirms that improving Colombia’s image will encourage tourism and foreign investment.

López – Will promote participation of Afro-Bogotanos in cultural tourism through formal and informal culture and art training. She plans to develop programmes for the teaching of a second language in the education system to “open the door” to other cultures.

Santos – Santos pitches his idea to capitalise on the reputation of Bogotá “the Athens of South America” with the aim of converting Bogotá into the Mecca for Spanish learning.

Parks & Environment

A lack of safe green spaces is a genuine concern for many Bogotanos; especially in more densely populated areas. The effect on quality of life cannot be understated.

Peñalosa – Wants to build a hiking trail in the Cerros Orientales creating a new park from currently owned public land, also plans to recuperate the Bogotá River. He plans to increase participation in the ciclovía by offering activities such as yoga, wall climbing and musical concerts.

Pardo – Pardo’s initiative ‘My secure park’, involves securing parks through an agreement between the administration, the police, citizens and his proposed new urban guard. He promises to work with Bogotanos to develop a strategy to encourage eco-neighbourhoods.

López – She will found an environmental investment fund to consolidate the budgets for all environmental projects and strengthen Bogotá’s environmental police.

Santos – Replanting trees in public spaces is a pressing issue for Santos. He believes PPIs can be used to turn the 6,000 tonnes of excrement produced daily in Bogotá into fertilizer to aid tree planting efforts.


Diversity & Inclusion

LGBTI issues have been at the fore in recent years, and the city – and country – have taken some great steps forward. However, recent figures from the secretariat of planning show that 49.6% of the LGBTI community felt insecure in Bogotá, a huge reduction from 83.3% five years ago, but the city still has much to improve.

marcha-lgbt-copiaPeñalosa – Bogotá needs to feel proud of being a plural, multicultural, diverse and socially rich city, states Peñalosa. His administration will help families of disabled people cope better and conduct a census to determine the number of disabled people, allowing better allocation of resources.

Pardo – To celebrate its diversity and combat discrimination Bogotá needs a culture of respect and not just tolerance, says Pardo. He plans to work to reintegrate the city’s homeless into society.

López – ‘Participation and security’ are Clara’s answer to a city free of prejudice. She wants to increase LGBTI participation in the democratic process and institute a security policy guaranteeing free expression for all minorities.

Santos – Santos calls for training and entrepreneurship programmes for the LGBTI sex workers and strengthening of a culture of tolerance towards the LGBTI population, respecting their decisions.