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Former Mexico City mayor
makes comeback as leader
of newly formed left-wing party

Mexico City, 12 June 2015:
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. the former mayor of Mexico City (2000 to 2005) and two-times failed presidential candidate, is again the most talked-about politician in his country after his newly formed left-wing party, Morena (National Regeneration Movement), became the second-largest political force in Mexico City in last weekend’s mid-term elections.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO to his followers, founded Morena last year after his former leftist party, Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), became embroiled in a number of corruption scandals. Mexico was outraged when the PRD mayor of Iguala allegedly handed over 43 college students to a notorious drug gang after they had threatened to disrupt a speech by his wife. It is feared that all 43 students were killed and their bodies incinerated.

In Sunday’s elections, Morena won five of the capital’s city districts, including its commercial centre, while the PRD, which had for many years dominated politics in Mexico City, came first in six districts. The country’s ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won three districts and the conservative National Action Party (PAN), won two.

The election results mean that there are now two left-wing parties fighting for power in Mexico City. While PRD mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera was not up for election, the success of Morena set back any hopes he may harbour to become the candidate of the left in the 2018 presidential elections. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has already made it quite clear that if there were to be a single candidate from the left it would be him.

In Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, a small leftist party, Citizen Movement, won the mayor’s office by a double-digit margin, while former soccer star Cuauhtémoc Blanco won the mayor’s post in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, running for a small party and on a platform of change. “I screwed them,” he gleefully told cheering supporters early on Monday, referring to the big three parties.


UN criticises Mexican
authorities after beheading
of mayoral candidate

Mexico City, 13 March 2015:
A mayoral candidate from Guerrero, which has been dubbed Mexico’s most dangerous state, has been found decapitated four days after she was deducted by members of a drug cartel. Aidé Nava González, whose husband, a former mayor, was shot dead last June, only started campaigning two weeks ago. Ms Nava, a member of the socialist PRD party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) was the favourite to win the mayoralty of Ahuacuotzingo, a post her late husband held from 2009 to 2012.

A note, which was pinned to her body, warned other politicians not to mess with the Puro Rojo ZNS, one of the state’s most violent cartels. The State of Guerrero became infamous last year, when in September in Iguala 43 students were abducted and presumed killed. Aidé Nava González own son was kidnapped in October 2012 and is still missing.

The UN has criticised Mexican authorities for their failures to prevent and punish enforced disappearances. These disappearances often involve kidnappings carried out or permitted by officials. The most notorious example was the case of 43 students who went missing, allegedly at the hands of local police. The town’s mayor was also implicated. The UN voiced concern over the near inexistence of convictions in such disappearances. Mexico acknowledges a figure of more than 23,000 people who are considered either disappeared or of unknown whereabouts, but it has no specific numbers on enforced disappearances.

"The Mexican government should take measures to thwart the disappearance of thousands of people," Amnesty International said in support of the UN criticism.


Caracas mayor arrested
and accused of plotting
against government

Caracas, 20 February 2015:
Yesterday, police in riot gear stormed into the office of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and, according to eyewitnesses, struck him several times before carrying him away. The mayor’s wife, who was with her husband when he was arrested, said police officers hit both of them during the confrontation. "They arrested him savagely. They punched him," she said. Other witnesses said that the police fired in the air and hit him before taking him away without an arrest warrant. The arrest was filmed on surveillance cameras, clips of which were distributed on social media.

After the detention of Mayor Ledezma, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on national television that the mayor was captured for fomenting a coup. Calling Ledezma a vampire, the President added there were no untouchables in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Association of Mayors has condemned the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas and demanded his immediate release. In a statement sent to the City Mayors Foundation, the Association called the arrest illegal and arbitrary. A spokesman for the Association added that the arrest of Mayor Ledezma was an attempt by the government to silence its critics. “Out of 72 mayors from opposition parties, 33 have government inspired legal procedures hanging over them.”

Last week, President Maduro included Ledezma in a list of people who, in concert with Western powers, were plotting against the government. The Caracas Mayor ridiculed the accusations, saying “the real destabilising force in Venezuela was the government’s corruption.” Independent observers said that the Venezuelan government feared a repeat of last year’s protest demonstrations, which took place in Caracas and other cities and during which some 50 people died. To mark last year’s protests, a group of opposition politicians, including Ledezma, had called for a national pact to establish a transnational government to rescue Venezuela from a coming “humanitarian emergency”. Venezuela’s President described the statement as a call for a coup.

The recent collapse in oil prices has dramatically worsened Venezuela’s economic crisis. Many basic products are in short supply. Economists predict that the country’s economy will contract by more than seven per cent, with inflation hovering above 70 per cent.

Antonio Ledezma has been a critic of Venezuela’s socialist government since he was elected Mayor of Caracas in 2008. The late President Hugo Chavez tried to silence the mayor by taking away many of his powers including control of police and schools. The mayor was re-elected in 2013 and awarded sixth place in the 2010 World Mayor Project. A commentator wrote at the time: “Antonio Ledezma has proved to be an honest man and a dedicated public servant, who believes in democracy and human rights and fights everyday in the defence of those very important concepts which are often violated in today’s Venezuela. Being part of the opposition makes it very difficult for a mayor or any public servant to get the job done because the central government sabotages their work. But Mr. Ledezma ‘does his job’ no matter what. This gives us, the people, hope for a better future for this country. We need more people like him in our country and in the world.”

Last year, the government arrested former Mayor of Chacao Leopoldo López and two other opposition mayors on charges of supporting violence during anti-government protests. San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, one of the three mayors, was arrested while attending a meeting of opposition mayors in Caracas.


“Mexican mayor linked
to missing students was
paid by criminal gangs”

Mexico City, 25 October 2014:
Some four weeks after 43 college students went missing in the southern Mexican town of Iguala, authorities now say that the town’s mayor and his wife are probably the masterminds behind the disappearance. The students disappeared on 26 September after they clashed with police during a demonstration against public corruption. Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda became fugitives shortly afterwards and have not been heard of since. Mexico’s Attorney General has now issued arrest warrants for the couple after preliminary investigations have revealed that the Mayor accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes every month from criminal gangs.

Mayor Abarca has long been suspected of having shady business dealings, particularly since his wife comes from a family linked to organised crime and drug dealers. Jose Luis Abarca began his business career by selling clothes and jewellery in a market but in 2008 he announced the construction of a 70,000-square-meter shopping plaza, the Galeria Tamarindos with seven cinemas and 50 retail and food outlets. The origin of the money that financed the project remains unknown.

Before his election in 2012, Jose Abarca had simultaneously made contact with both the centre-left Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) and the centre-right Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), hoping that one of them would back his bid for political office. He finally got the support of the PRD after making substantial financial contributions to the party.

Once in office, Abarca quickly established a "criminal network in several municipalities" of the State of Guerrero, according to Mexican authorities. The anonymous author of a blog called Iguala Libre described it as a "criminal pact between the Beltran Leyva cartel and state and local police". This "included a 'cleansing operation' to eradicate common criminality”, in order to facilitate the trafficking and distribution of narcotics.

Two years later, Mexican prosecutors confirmed that the Guerreros Unidos leadership was paid "up to 3 million pesos on a regular basis." At least 600,000 Mexican pesos were paid to local police on a monthly basis, says the prosecution, citing witnesses in the case. The Mayor’s wife was described as the key operator of the City of Iguala's criminal network. (Report by local reporters and Deutsche Welle)


Venezuelan mayors
on trial for supporting
opposition protests

Caracas, 30 July 2014:
The Venezuelan state is currently conducting a virtually secret trial against three former mayors and a former police chief. The most prominent of the four is Leopoldo López, who between 2000 and 2008 as mayor of Chacao, was one of the most popular city leaders in the country but already loathed by the late president Hugo Chávez. Now, a government official described him as the most dangerous man in Venezuela. López was arrested in February and accused of supporting violence during anti-government protests. His fellow-accused have been charged with similar offences.

Leopoldo López founded the opposition party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) in 2009, one year after he stepped down as mayor. The party was formed in response to the increasingly dictatorial behaviour of president Chávez. In an article written before his imprisonment earlier this year, López described Popular Will as a grassroots, social and political movement that avoided the harmful practices of old and new political parties and that was opposed to warlordism and cronyism in the selection of its authorities. The party counts 18 Venezuelan mayors among its members.

San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, another of the three mayors currently on trial, was arrested while attending a meeting of opposition mayors in Caracas. He was an outspoken opponent of the way Venezuela’s security services operated in his municipality. The anti-government protests in February started in San Cristobal when students rallied against soaring inflation and rampant violence. Venezuela’s Justice Minister described the arrest as an act of justice for a mayor who not only did not meet his obligations as required by law and the constitution, but also facilitated and supported all the irrational violence in San Cristobal. In May this year, Daniel Ceballos’ wife Patricia won the mayoral by-election with almost 75 per cent of the vote.

The wife of Enzo Scarano, the third former mayor on trial, also succeeded her husband after winning more than 80 per cent of the vote in the by-election in San Diego following the dismissal of the mayor. Like his fellow accused, Enzo Scarano is charged with supporting the February protests.

The trial against the three former mayors and the former police chief has been condemned by civil rights groups after the court decided to bar the press from the proceedings. A number of international organisations have also criticised Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro for pre-judging the outcome of the trial when he said at a press conference that Leopoldo López had tried to destabalise his government. "He is responsible for crimes. He has to pay, and he will pay," the president said.

In 2008, Leonardo López was awarded third place in that year’s World Mayor Project, behind the mayors of Cape Town and Zurich.


Venezuela mayor
stabbed to death
in his own home

Caracas, 21 July 2014:
The body of a prominent Venezuelan opposition mayor was discovered yesterday in his home after unknown assailants had stabbed him to death. A police spokesman said that Enrique Franceschi, the mayor of the city of Arismendi Rio Caribe, was found with multiple stab wounds. The 34-year old victim was a member of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity Roundtable), an alliance of centrist and centre-left parties opposed to the country’s socialist government. Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Venezuela’s capital Caracas and a party colleague, said in a statement all the country’s mayors will mourn a respected colleague who had a promising political future ahead of him.

While there are some speculations that the murder might be politically motivated, the newspaper El Nacional was told by unnamed police sources that a group of men entered the house of the mayor intending to carry out a robbery. Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in South America. Opposition politicians claim there are 74 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a figure which is, however, disputed by the government.

Franceschi has been mayor of Arismendi, a town of 35,000 people in the State of Sucre, since December 2011.


Rio de Janeiro mayor says
Olympics will learn lessons
from World Cup mistakes

Rio de Janeiro, 8 June 2014:
With only days to go before the start of the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor admitted that the country got if badly wrong when it decided to spread the tournament over 12 cities but added that many lessons had been learnt. "We made a fundamental mistake. We should have decided on fewer cities hosting the World Cup than we did," Eduardo Paes said. He also described the football event, as far as Rio de Janeiro was concerned, as a dress rehearsal for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

FIFA, the organisers, requires only eight venues for a World Cup, but Brazilian politicians decided to nominate 12 host cities and to commission at least four new stadiums, some of which are expected to become obsolete.

One week before kick-off in Sao Paulo, four stadiums, those in Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Cuiaba and São Paulo, weren't ready and dozens of promised public infrastructure projects will not be completed until long after the last game on 13 July, if at all. Even former Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, a member of the World Cup organising committee, said last month that he was appalled by his country's preparations for the tournament.

Rio Mayor Paes did not deny that the delays hurt the country’s and his city’s image. "There was huge damage to our reputation," he said. "When you don't have everything ready, that is a big damage." Recent opinion polls have shown that more than 50 per cent of Brazilians are against hosting the event, even though football is the country’s favourite sport. But Rio’s mayor is adamant that the 2016 Olympic Games, which his city will host, will be different. "We are going to deliver things on time and with no white elephants. I know that we don't have a good example with the World Cup and people are not going to be believe in everything we say. But wait and you will be surprised," the mayor told foreign journalists.

The 64 matches of this year’s Football World Cup will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Recife, Culaba, Manaus, Natal and Curitiba.


Two Mexican mayors
accused of extortion
and kidnapping

Mexico City, 30 April 2014:
During the past fortnight, two mayors and a lieutenant governor were arrested in the Mexican State of Michoacan and accused of links to organised crime. The most recent arrest happened on Monday, when  the mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, a major port on Mexico’s Pacific coast, was taken into custody. Arquimedes Oseguera, who allegedly has maintained close links to the Knights Templar drug cartel, is suspected of having been involved in kidnappings and extortion. Two weeks ago, police arrested the mayor of Apatzingan, Uriel Chavez Mendoza, after claims that he lured council members into a trap where they were forced to hand over money to masked gunmen.

The arrests were part of an operation by federal police and the army to rid Michoacan of the Knights Templar drug cartel. The cartel uses the port of Lázaro Cárdenas for the import and export of illegal drugs and has over recent years gained control of sections of the city’s everyday commerce. Two months ago, fearing shoot-outs between self-styled citizen militia groups and cartel members, federal forces started to move into the state. The authorities now claim that Michoacan State had been largely pacified and that militia members had agreed to disband bei 10 May.

The militias were set up by local business people and farmers who had been targeted by Knights Templar for years. Government officials have confirmed that the cartel had demanded protection payments from almost every type of farm, orchard and business in the state. The cartel also manipulated distribution and production of produce like limes and avocados, apparently to raise prices and increase their cut.

There had been longstanding reports of cartel involvement in Michoacan politics, but previous efforts to prosecute alleged offenders have ended in failure. In 2009, federal prosecutors arrested 12 mayors and 23 other Michoacan officials for supposedly aiding the La Familia drug cartel, the predecessor of the Knights Templar. Two years later, all 35 officials had been acquitted.


Rio Mayor rejects
‘white elephants’
for 2016 Olympics

Rio de Janeiro, 27 April 2014:
Rio de Janeiro’s mayor has hit back at criticism about the city’s preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Eduardo Paes, who was instrumental in winning the games against competition from Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago, said he would not yield to pressure from a number of sports federations to provide facilities, which would become obsolete after the games. Speaking to journalists, the mayor accused critics of demanding too many oversized facilities that would not be used by the city after the Olympics.

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent a troubleshooter to Brazil after some 18 sports federations had raised concern about Rio’s preparedness for the 2016 Games. Critics are particularly concerned about the Deodoro complex, which is meant to host basketball, rugby, slalom canoe, dressage, mountain biking and six other competitions.

The area, to the west of Rio, is currently used as a military training camp. Journalists, who went to the site where building has yet to start, reported that soldiers living there had no idea that they were to be re-located. A spokesman for the mayor said the construction of the facilities at Deodora was fairly straightforward and would be completed in the first half of 2016.

Responding to criticism by the International Tennis Federation, Mayor Paes said the city would not build oversized facilities that would become white elephants after the Games like the Bird’s Nest in Beijing.

Eduardo Paes still has the support of IOC President Thomas Bach, who described the mayor as a key player and praised him for his ability to raise additional funding for infrastructure. Total construction costs are estimated to total eventually US$10.7 billion.


Bogota mayor’s reinstatement
seen as adroit political move
by president up for re-election

Bogota, 25 April 2014:
Ahead of Colombia’s presidential elections next month, the future of Bogota’s left-wing Mayor Gustavo Petro has increasingly become the subject of a power struggle between the country’s right and left. Following a decision by Bogota’s Superior Tribunal, but more likely based on political calculations, President Juan Manuel Santos reinstated the mayor who was removed from his post last December by Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez. While the post of Inspector General is constitutional non-partisan, Ordoñez has made no secret of his right-wing views and has already announced that he will appeal to the Supreme Court against the mayor’s reinstatement.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who only one month ago said that Mayor Petro's legal appeal against his original dismissal had run its course, now announced that it was his legal obligation to reinstate the mayor. The president’s chances of winning a second term have diminished since he fell out with his former mentor ex-president Alvaro Uribe. Since his election four years ago, the president has been seeking a peace deal Colombia’s left-wing Farc rebels. Former president Uribe objects to any concessions to Farc and has asked conservative voters to support the right-winger Óscar Ivan Zuluaga in the presidential elections.

Having lost the backing of the country’s right, President Santos will now have to appeal to centre-left voters, many of whom voted for Mayor Petro in 2011, to progress to the second round of voting, where he is likely to face Enrique Peñalosa, a former centre-left mayor of Bogota.

Gustavo Petro, who assumed office on 1 January 2012, fought as a young man with the now defunct leftist M-19 rebel movement and later, as Colombian senator, became the most outspoken opponent of right-wing president Alvaro Uribe. Gustavo Petro’s hefty plurality in the Bogotá mayoral race represented a severe setback for US Latin American policies promoted by presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. But ironically while a senator, Petro backed the inspector general candidacy of Alejandro Ordoñez, a decision, which at that time alienated him from other left-wing politicians.


Bogota’s dismissed mayor will
remain a World Mayor candidate

Bogota, 21 March 2014:
Despite a ruling by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has dismissed Bogota’s elected Mayor Gustavo Petro. The Commission found that the mayor’s original removal from office last December by the country’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez was unjustified and the mayor should be allowed to serve out his term. Mayor Petro, who was the City Mayors Foundation’s Mayor of the Month for June 2012, is on the longlist for this year’s World Mayor Prize. A spokesman for the organisers of the Project said Gustavo Petro would remain a candidate.

A spokesman for the Colombian President said Mayor Petro's legal appeal against his dismissal had run its course in Colombian courts, and labour minister, Rafael Pardo, would be appointed as acting mayor of the capital city.

Under the order of the Inspector General, Gustavo Petro will not only have to vacate Bogota City Hall but be banned from holding any public office for the next 15 years. The Inspector General, who under the Colombian constitution is charged with overseeing the proper conduct of public officials, claimed the mayor was not a fit person to run a mega-city like Bogota. In January 2013, Alejandro Ordoñez launched an investigation into the mayor’s decision to transfer the city’s rubbish collection from private contractors to a city-owned service. The Inspector’s office claimed the transfer was mismanaged with tons of rubbish being left uncollected. City Hall alleged that the private contractors were overcharging the city.

Alejandro Ordoñez has never made any secrets of his politically conservative views. He was an ardent supporter of former President Alvaro Uribe and, in 2010, ordered the removal from office of left-wing Senator Piedad Cordoba and banned her from holding public office for 18 years. The Inspector General accused her of promoting the cause of leftist rebels.

Gustavo Petro, who assumed office on 1 January 2012, fought as a young man with the now defunct leftist M-19 rebel movement and later, as Colombian senator, became the most outspoken opponent of right-wing president Alvaro Uribe. Gustavo Petro’s hefty plurality in the Bogotá mayoral race represented a severe setback for US Latin American policies promoted by presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. But ironically while a senator, Petro backed the inspector general candidacy of Alejandro Ordoñez, a decision, which at that time alienated him from other left-wing politicians.


Bogota mayor sacked
by political opponent

Bogota, 10 December 2013:
Thousands of people took to the streets in Bogota in protest against the ousting of the city’s mayor. Yesterday morning Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez announced that Mayor Gustavo Petro should be removed from office over the alleged mismanagement of public services. The mayor called the decision a politically motivated coup d’état and vowed not to step down. He has also launched an appeal. The leftist mayor has been a thorn in the side of the conservative government since he took office in January 2012.

Under the order, Gustavo Petro will not only have to vacate Bogota City Hall but be banned from holding any public office for the next 15 years. The Inspector General, who under the Colombian constitution is charged with overseeing the proper conduct of public officials, claimed the mayor was not a fit person to run a mega-city like Bogota. Last January, Alejandro Ordoñez launched an investigation into the mayor’s decision to transfer the city’s rubbish collection from private contractors to a city-owned service. The Inspector’s office claimed the transfer was mismanaged with tons of rubbish being left uncollected. City Hall alleged that the private contractors were overcharging the city.

Alejandro Ordoñez has never made any secrets of his politically conservative views. He was an ardent supporter of former President Alvaro Uribe and, in 2010, ordered the removal from office of left-wing Senator Piedad Cordoba and banned her from holding public office for 18 years. The Inspector General accused her of promoting the cause of leftist rebels.

Gustavo Petro, who assumed office on 1 January 2012, fought as a young man with the now defunct leftist M-19 rebel movement and later, as Colombian senator, became the most outspoken opponent of right-wing president Alvaro Uribe. Gustavo Petro’s hefty plurality in the Bogotá mayoral race represented a severe setback for US Latin American policies promoted by presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. But ironically while a senator, Petro backed the inspector general candidacy of Alejandro Ordoñez, a decision, which at that time alienated him from other left-wing politicians.


Mexican mayor killed for
stand against drug cartels

Mexico City, 13 November 2013:
A small-town Mexican mayor, who had the courage to speak out against the drug cartels operating in his state, was found murdered after he had been abducted and allegedly tortured. Ygnacio Lopez Mendoza, the mayor of Santa Ana Maya in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, had just ended a 18-day hunger strike in front of Mexico’s federal senate building in Mexico City. Speaking to journalists, he complained about complicity between local police and members of drug gangs. He also said that mayors in his state were routinely forced to give 10 per cent of building works budgets to the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) drug cartel.

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderon demanded in a Twitter message an explanation of the death of Mayor Lopez. ''The mayor was on a hunger strike in front of the Senate complaining of complicity between local police and criminals. Today he's dead. How did it happen?'' Calderon asked. In 2009 President Calderon ordered the arrest of 35 mayors, public prosecutors and other officials, who were accused of taking bribes but the cases never made it to court. More recently, Mexican media reported that some mayors with links to drug cartels were forced to leave town by newly formed citizens vigilante groups.

Last week the director of the Association of local authorities in Mexico said that during the past eight years 47 mayors were killed by suspected members of drug cartels.






World Mayor 2014
The results of World Mayor 2014 were announced on 3 February 2015




Former Mexico City mayor makes comeback as leader of newly formed left-wing party



UN criticises Mexican authorities after beheading of mayoral candidate



Caracas mayor arrested and accused of plotting against government



“Mexican mayor linked
to missing students was
paid by criminal gangs”
(Photo: Mayor Abarca and his wife. Both have been accused of links to organised crime)


Venezuelan mayors on trial for supporting opposition protests
(Photo: Leopoldo López arrested by police)


Venezuela mayor stabbed to death in his own home



Rio de Janeiro mayor says Olympics will learn lessons from Football World Cup mistakes



Two Mexican mayors accused of extortion and kidnapping



Rio Mayor rejects ‘white elephants’ for 2016 Olympics
(Photo: Critics claim construction work for Rio 2016 is behind schedule)


Bogota mayor’s reinstatement seen as adroit political move by president up for re-election


Bogota’s dismissed mayor will remain a World Mayor candidate



Mexican mayor killed for
stand against drug cartels