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Colombia's President Santos dismisses Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has dismissed the capital city Bogota’s elected mayor. The controversial decision could affect upcoming presidential elections and a peace process with left-wing rebels.

President Santos on Wednesday dismissed Bogota's elected mayor, Gustavo Petro (pictured), refusing to accept an international court ruling to let him serve out his term.

Petro, a former leader of the now defunct M-19 guerrilla group, was dismissed from his post by the inspector general last year over mismanagement, and barred from politics for 15 years. His last appeal ended on Tuesday and the decision was not reversed, opening the way for Santos' decision.

Colombia's inspector general originally removed Petro from office last year, saying he abused his powers by eliminating private garbage collection contracts to replace them with a city-run service.

Petro, 53, says his removal and ban from office was politically motivated.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission this week ruled the sacking violated Petro's human rights and urged he be reinstated - but President Santos instead replaced him with an interim mayor.

Santos named Rafael Pardo Rueda, the current labor minister, as his replacement.

The decision could affect presidential elections in May and a peace process currently taking place with the FARC, the country's oldest and largest guerrilla group.

Petro has called for a general strike to protest his ouster.

"The Colombian people should go on general strike, and peacefully so," to reject the move, Petro told a rally of about 1,500 supporters.

Center-right Santos will seek a second four-year term at elections on May 25.

hc/jr (AFP, AP Reuters)