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Crime, Congestion, and Corruption Frame Mayoral Race in Bogota

With the current mayor in jail, a transit-building former mayor is among the election's front-runners

Carlos Duran / Reuters

Shadows hang over the mayoral elections taking place this Sunday in Bogota, Colombia, the country’s capital and biggest city. With its current mayor, Samuel Moreno, removed from office and in jail awaiting trial over bribery charges, residents there are understandably disillusioned with politicians. The growing city of 8.2 million is also struggling with crime, congestion, joblessness, and persistent poverty.

Four of five recent polls put leftist senator Gustavo Petro slightly ahead of the pack, though his past involvement with the militant guerrilla group M-19 hasn't escaped controversy. Green Party candidate Enrique Peñalosa, who served as the city’s mayor from 1998 to 2001, is hanging in at second place. Peñalosa is often credited with the city’s much-touted bus rapid transit system known as TransMilenio, which is widely seen as a model for other cities but has struggled to expand and meet the growing demand for its services. The third leading candidate, former congresswoman Gina Parody, has the support of another former mayor, Antanas Mockus. Peñalosa has the support of current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

This piece from Colombia Reports breaks down the issues that are defining the mayoral race:

Bogota's economy is growing at a healthy clip. While many cities must envy this, growth also exacerbates problems such as pollution and traffic congestion and can widen the gap between the uneducated poor, who are stuck as construction workers and street vendors, and the wealthy, who live like residents of wealthy nations, take shopping sprees in Miami and party at TGIF and the Hard Rock Cafe. The upper classes' huge SUVs hog road space, condemning the poor to interminable commutes on their way from the slums to minimum wage jobs in wealthy neighborhoods.

Polls are open Sunday, and results could be in early next week. How the candidates fare will of course have a lot to do with their own merits, but the current climate of corruption will also play a big role in determining what sort of politician locals are willing to trust at this point.

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.