The judiciary has nullified the candidacy of Jorge Agudelo, who emerged victorious in the elections held on October 29th for the Mayor’s Office of the city of Santa Marta. Agudelo replaced candidate Patricia Caicedo, who, a few weeks before the elections, also saw her candidacy annulled by the judiciary for being the sister of the governor of Magdalena, as the law prohibits family relationships in political candidacies.
The Fuerza Ciudadana party appointed Jorge Agudelo as a replacement on October 10th, through legal action that allowed the late registration of the incumbent candidate for the capital of Magdalena. The elections were highly contested, and Agudelo’s candidacy ultimately prevailed by less than a 300-vote difference. Since then, controversy has not ceased in Santa Marta: recounts, complaints, and finally, the annulment of the legal action that allowed Agudelo’s registration for the electoral race, almost a month after the elections.
As a result, the law stipulates that the mayor should be the candidate with the second-highest number of votes, namely, Carlos Pinedo. However, Agudelo’s reaction has been swift, and even the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, who is close to the revoked candidacy, has expressed his displeasure and described the situation as a “mockery of the citizens’ vote.”
Revocation of the candidacy
The judicial decision determined that the revocation of Agudelo is not against those who elected him but against his party. However, the political and legal struggle has not ceased since the election night when Agudelo won by a narrow margin. In the final recount a few days later, the victory of the Fuerza Ciudadana candidate was confirmed. Nevertheless, the controversy persisted, and the judicial decision that ultimately annuls the winning candidacy was known after the plenary session of the National Electoral Council (CNE), on November 22nd, by a majority decision, rejected the demands to revoke Jorge Agudelo’s registration.
“The registration of the candidacy of citizen Jorge Agudelo Apreza for the Mayor’s Office of this city for the electoral period 2024 to 2027 as a representative of the political party Fuerza Ciudadana is not a matter that directly concerns the summoners’ rights to choose and be chosen, but rather concerns a third party, that is, the political party whose candidacy was revoked for not complying with the legal and constitutional requirements defined there, to the point that they withdrew from the recourse proposed by the interested party,” reads the judicial sentence.
With this decision, the left-wing party Fuerza Ciudadana loses a mayorship it has held for 12 years, after taking control from the traditional leaders of the region.
Rafael Martínez, former mayor of Santa Marta and governor-elect of Magdalena for the same party as Agudelo, has expressed concern about a video of the District Scrutiny Commission, which he claims would indicate that they were committing an abuse of power by trying to discount the votes for Jorge Agudelo without a judicial order. Martínez has announced that his party will go “to the last consequences for their abuse of power and exceeding their functions.”
President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has also commented on the judicial decision. “What we have is a mockery of the citizens’ vote in Santa Marta.” The president has invoked Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states that political rights cannot be taken away if it is by a judicial sentence.
Carlos Pinedo would be the new mayor
With this latest legal episode, it seems that the fight in favor of the loser of the election night, the conservative candidate Carlos Pinedo, could be coming to a close. Pinedo has already requested the credential as the elected mayor, having finished second in the elections on October 29th. “The District Scrutiny Commission decided in accordance with the ruling of the Superior Tribunal, and the votes of the opposing candidate will not be counted. Now the task is, above all, to transform this city,” he wrote on his X account.
On the other hand, Pinedo has demanded the intervention of authorities, both local and state, to disperse the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in Santa Marta protesting the judicial decision that annuls the popular will expressed in the vote.
“Disturbances are occurring in Pozos Colorados, where Fuerza Ciudadana militants are clashing with the security forces. (…) I adhere to respect for institutionalism and reiterate the call to the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense, Senator, Police of Colombia, Police of Santa Marta, Army, and the Prosecutor’s Office to preserve security in Santa Marta,” said the candidate favored by the judicial decision.
“We cannot fall into the diatribe of a discourse of hatred that harms the city. Judicial decisions are to be complied with, and that is what we have always done. Let Colombia know that the people of Santa Marta respect the law, those who have resorted to force are driven by the discourse of polarization,” Carlos Pinedo concluded.