Latin America & Caribbean

Thousands march for sacked Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro

Pro-Petro demo in Bogota
Image caption Supporters of Mr Petro say an unelected prosecutor should not have the powers to dismiss an elected mayor

Tens of thousands of people in Colombia have been taking part in a demonstration in support of the sacked mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro.

Colombia's Inspector General, Alejandro Ordonez, announced on Monday that Mr Petro would have to leave office over the alleged mismanagement of the capital's rubbish collection service.

Mr Petro was also banned from holding public office for 15 years.

He says he will fight to reverse the decision. He is allowed to appeal.

Bolivar square in central Bogota was packed, in the biggest demonstration in support of the mayor so far.

Mr Petro, a former left-wing rebel, said he had been the victim of a "right-wing coup" by the Inspector General's Office.

Image caption Mr Petro served two years in jail for his role in the M-19 rebel group

"Here we will define whether peace is possible or not, whether democracy is possible or not," Mr Petro told supporters on the square.

He was a member of the M-19 rebel group, which signed a peace agreement with the government and gave up its armed struggle in 1990.

'Blow to peace'

The inspector general said the mayor had violated the principles of the free market and endangered people's health with a series of changes to the rubbish collection system.

In 2012, rubbish was left uncollected in Bogota for several days due to failures in the system.

The Colombian constitution gives the Inspector General's Office the power to oversee the performances of those holding public office.

Mr Petro's term started in 2012 and was supposed to end in 2016. He was a potential candidate for presidential elections in 2018.

The decision to remove him from office may have a negative impact on the peace talks the Colombian government is holding with the country's largest rebel group, the Farc, says the BBC's Arturo Wallace.

In a statement, the Farc called the decision "a serious blow" to the government's credibility.

The peace talks are aimed at ending five decades of conflict, with the rebels agreeing to join the legal political process.

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