Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro sacked and banned from office

Arturo Wallace: "He will be dead politically for 15 years"

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The mayor of Colombia's capital, Bogota, Gustavo Petro, has been sacked following allegations of mismanagement of the rubbish collection system.

Mr Petro, a leading leftist seen as a potential presidential candidate in the 2018 elections, was banned from holding office for 15 years.

The mayor had violated the principles of the free market and endangered people's health, the prosecution said.

Thousands of people gathered in Bogota's central square to protest.

In 2012, rubbish was not collected for days after waste management changes.

Mr Petro, a former member of the revolutionary armed group M-19, called the decision a "coup" and urged the people to protest peacefully.

'Solidarity'

Shortly after the decision was announced by Inspector-General Alejandro Ordonez, protesters started gathering at Bogota's central Bolivar Square.

"I'm asking the world for solidarity. We're facing a coup against the progressive government of the city of Bogota," Mr Petro wrote on Twitter.

On his Facebook page, Mr Petro wrote that he had been condemned for having "de-privatised a public service".

The Colombian Constitution gives the Inspector General's Office the power to check the performance of those holding public office.

But the decision by Mr Ordonez sparked criticism from Justice Minister, Alfonso Gomez Mendez.

"We have to revise the constitutional norm that allows the destitution of an official chosen by popular vote," Mr Gomez told reporters.

Mr Petro's term started in 2012 and was supposed to end in 2016.

He is allowed to appeal against the decision to the Inspector General's Office or to the Council of State, a Supreme Court panel dedicated to public administration cases.

Inspector-General Ordonez had already sparked controversy by openly opposing gay marriage and the current peace talks with the Farc rebels.

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