Colombia president to challenge Bogota mayor's return

BOGOTA Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:43am EDT

Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro (3rd L) walks to Bolivar Square, after being restored as mayor by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in Bogota April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Fredy Builes

Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro (3rd L) walks to Bolivar Square, after being restored as mayor by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in Bogota April 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Fredy Builes

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's government will challenge a judicial decision restoring the mayor of Bogota to his post weeks after he was ousted, the president said on Friday in the latest twist to a saga that has left the city without stable leadership.

A Bogota tribunal on Tuesday ruled that President Juan Manuel Santos must adhere to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission request that Gustavo Petro be reinstated as mayor, a decision that was signed into effect the following day.

Critics have called the firing a move by the traditionally right-leaning political establishment to undermine leftist opponents like Petro.

Petro's dismissal was declared in December by right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez, whose office probes mismanagement by public officials, over the mayor's attempt to reclaim management of waste collection from private operators.

After garbage piled up in the streets, the duties were returned to private contractors.

Santos said he would challenge the decision to reinstate Petro since it contradicts a previous judicial order to remove the mayor.

"If, since it is a decision that is calling into question the action of the government, then we have to appeal against it," Santos told a radio station in the central province of Antioquia.

Bogota has already had two stand-in mayors since Petro left on March 19.

Petro, 54, had been a member of the now-defunct M-19 guerrilla movement, which disbanded to embrace politics. He left office when Santos ratified a decision by the Council of State, the senior judicial authority that dismissed him.

Petro's ouster caused nationwide controversy. Many were especially critical of a decision by Ordonez to also ban Petro from holding public office for 15 years.

Many Colombians view Petro's difficulties as a right-wing campaign against the left and future political participation by Marxist FARC rebels if ongoing peace talks are successful.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is negotiating a five-point peace accord with the government to end a half-century of conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people.

(Reporting by Monica Garcia; Writing by Peter Murphy and Helen Murphy; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)