Que Peña! Peñalosa’s recall recalled

By bogotapost March 14, 2018
Peñalosa’s recall

Photo: Wikicommons

After some budgetary inconsistencies from the organisation accusing him, Peñalosa’s recall might be shelved.

Attempts by dissatisfied citizens to force their beleaguered mayor out of office have hit a brick wall after the National Electoral Council (CNE) said it needed to investigate budget inconsistencies in the papers filed by Unidos Revocamos a Peñalosa (Together we recall Peñalosa) – the group who are leading the charge.The decision comes at a time when Colombian distrust of the authorities – and electoral authorities – of the country is sky-high. Indeed the latest poll from Bogotá Como Vamos put the mayor’s favourability rating at just 16% in 2017 and also showed that just 10% of citizens said they trusted him.

Unidos Revocamos a Peñalosa was one of several groups formed in 2017 that began the lengthy bureaucratic process to remove him. They were frustrated, among other things, by his decision to open the Van Der Hammen environmental reserve in the north of the city. The mayor wanted to open it to urbanisation, arguing that “it’s just a wasteland.”

He also decided to sell the public company Empresas Telecomunicaciones de Bogotá (ETB), changed the plans for the metro and raised Transmilenio fares.

The recall process, which was actually simplified in 2015, is one of over 160 similar attempts to remove local mayors and governors in the past two decades. None of them have succeeded.

The committee of the recall organisation must give the Registry a number in citizens’ signatures equal to 30% of the votes that the mayor won when he was elected. Peñalosa had more than 900,000 votes, so more than 272,000 signatures were needed to start the recall. On May 2, 2017, The Registry received 706,708 of them of which 458,935 were valid. Enough for the next step.

Related: on trial: Enrique Peñalosa

The Registry had 45 days to send the signatures to the CNE, the highest authority in electoral matters. Then, the CNE had six months to decide what follows next. If everything was right, it should have told the Registry to organise recall elections.

However the process looks set to drag after the CNE found inconsistencies in the budgetary papers that Unidos Revocamos a Peñalosa were required to submit, claiming some bills, expenses and income reports were missing. The whole recall process will be put on hold while the CNE investigate its spokesman, Gustavo Merchán.

As law 1757 of 2015 says, a recall can ask for signatures only after the first 12 months of taking office and up to 18 months before the ending of the mayoral term. This means if the process is not able to move on before June of this year, Peñalosa will be safe in office until 2020.

Sergio Trujillo