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Indigenous Guards Rally Behind Progressive Mayor in Colombia

Indigenous guards were among the tens of thousands of Colombians in December who rallied in support of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro.
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Indigenous guards were among the tens of thousands of Colombians in December who rallied in support of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro, who faces a possible removal ordered by Colombia's Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez.

Inspector General Ordoñez said he ordered that Petro be sacked on December 9 for "violating constitutional principles of commercial competition and freedom" when Mayor Petro fired private garbage collection contractors in December 2012 and replaced them with a city-run service; what Petro called 'de-privatization'. Petro's maneuver did not work out and the private contractors returned to work three days later after thousands of tons of garbage accumulated all throughout the capital city.

Inspector Genereal Ordoñez ordered that Mayor Petro be removed from office and barred from holding any political position for 15 years. Petro refused to leave office and filed an appeal to the decision, calling it an attempt to weaken the Colombian left and the talks with FARC rebels in Cuba.

Other Colombian government officials such as Justice Minister Alfonso Gomez and many citizens, including indigenous people from around the country, condemned Ordoñez’s order.

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Close to 300 indigenous guards from northern Cauca left in buses and taxis heading to the capital city on December 11, and while members of the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (IRCC) reported that Colombian National Police attempted to detain their caravan, the guards were able to continue and arrive in Bogota on Thursday, December 12, the day before the pro Petro demonstration.

The indigenous guards were among the 40,000 demonstrators who gathered in Bogota's Bolivar Plaza on December 13 and were mentioned by Petro in his speech to his supporters.

"Before the removal we had guaranteed our support of Bogota's mayor, and we're going to participate in all of the mobilizations," said Feliciano Valencia, an indigenous Nasa leader who attended the rally.

Valencia and leaders from the National Indigenous Council of Colombia (NICC) concurred with Mayor Petro's allegations that his removal was a politically motivated attack, calling it a "clear exercise of political persecution."

Petro's appeal has not been ruled on as of press time and on December 20 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced that it would examine the Petro case.