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Bogota mayor loses fight to stay in office

The embattled leftist mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro, lost his bid to stay in office after President Juan Manuel Santos refused to heed a ruling by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

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Bogota's Mayor Gustavo Petro speaks to supporters from a balcony of the city hall in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Fernando Vergara/AP

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The embattled leftist mayor of Bogota lost his bid to stay in office Wednesday as President Juan Manuel Santos refused to heed a ruling by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

The commission had urged on Tuesday a stay against the removal of Mayor Gustavo Petro, finding that Colombia's inspector general violated the region's human rights charter by ordering Petro's ouster in December and barring him from politics for 15 years.

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"The Colombian government does accept the injunction request," President Santos said in a brief statement, taking no questions.

Mr. Petro's legal appeal had run its course in Colombian courts, and Santos named his labor minister, Rafael Pardo, as acting mayor of the capital.

Colombia has generally heeded rulings by the Inter-American commission, but Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin indicated that this was one time Colombian justice would not be overruled.

In ordering Petro's removal, Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez had accused the former M-19 rebel of overstepping his constitutional authority with heavy-handed tactics in a failed attempt to replace private trash collectors.

Petro, 53, had been abandoned by many close aides who complained he was ineffective and out of touch while in office.

His mayoral tenure was in sharp contrast to his previous effectiveness as an opposition senator, when Petro was a key player in uncovering the so-called parapolitics scandal in 2006 that linked scores of politicians to far-right militias.

The Inter-American commission issued its unanimous 11-page ruling in Petro's favor after he lost his latest appeal in one of Colombia's highest courts.

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Petro had faced an April 6 recall election.