Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Bogotá’s politics: Take a seat

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on May 16, 2011

by The Americas View, The Economist, May 10th, 2011.

Colombians have long assumed that companies who win public-works contracts often pay a “commission” to the government officials signing the deals. Corruption remains widespread, but the country’s courts are beginning to crack down. Last week the mayor of Bogotá, Samuel Moreno, was suspended for three months during an investigation of his alleged negligence in overseeing the infrastructure budget.

Bogotanos have been in a grumpy mood for months, as expansions to the bus system and road-construction projects have snarled traffic. Many locals blame the slow pace of building on a kickback scheme involving Mr Moreno’s brother Iván, who was arrested in April for allegedly charging contractors a 6% “commission” to do business with the city. “I hope they put that mayor in jail,” said Jairo Martínez, a 23-year-old taxi driver, as he maneuvered through improvised detours and bottlenecks. “This is all I’ve known, traffic jams, construction sites and potholes.”

For now, the mayor himself has not been charged with graft. He has promised to fight his suspension in the courts and refused to resign. Alejandro Ordóñez, the inspector general, said the suspension was “preventative”, to ensure that no further wrongdoing takes place while Mr Moreno’s failure to stop the corruption is investigated. But the suspension can be extended, and Mr Moreno’s term runs out at the end of 2010. In the meantime, María Fernanda Campo, the education minister, has been named interim mayor. She will be replaced as soon as Juan Manuel Santos, the president, receives and chooses from a list of three candidates that will be sent to him by Mr Moreno’s party, the left-of-centre Democratic Pole. (continue reading… )

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