Gustavo Petro, president-elect of Colombia. SEBASTIAN BARROS / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO (Europa Press)
The mayors of Bogotá had a box in the La Santamaría bullring until Gustavo Petro arrived.
Under his administration (2012-2015), the district mayor's office unilaterally renewed the lease of the emblematic plaza, with more than 80 years of history, and closed the door to bullfighting.
The fans protested, but the mayor imposed his will to prevent this type of activity from taking place in the city, despite the fact that there was already a law regulating bullfighting.
Now, as president, he promises to extend his opposition to the entire country.
“We will promote the prohibition of all kinds of shows that involve animal abuse practices, including bullfights.
We will not allow the use of scenarios or public resources for these purposes, ”says the government plan of him.
This week he reiterated his position.
"I ask the mayors not to authorize more shows with the death of people or animals," he wrote after the collapse of a gallery in the Plaza de El Espinal, which left four people dead and more than 200 injured.
With the political change that is coming, the future of bullfighting in Colombia, with one of the biggest hobbies in South America, is supposed to be even more uncertain.
Gustavo Petro is radically opposed to bullfighting and the bullfighters insist on pointing out that prohibiting them is an attack on their freedom.
Luis Bolívar is one of the bullfighters who leads the defense of his trade before the new government.
"It is a cultural manifestation that meets all the requirements of the UNESCO Convention (2003), which Colombia signed," he says in writing to this newspaper.
Bolívar lives in Spain, but has taken over as spokesman for his fellow Colombians.
“We carefully watched his speech after the victory in the elections, and every word he spoke represented us.
If that is the model of society that the president-elect wants to promote, we have plenty of room,”
and asks Petro to listen to them.
“Hopefully that's the person we can sit down with and talk to.
We hope that they will allow us to be in the debate, with all the guarantees, with the bullrings open for the people”.
View of the bullring of La Santamaría, in Bogotá. GUILLERMO LEGARIA / AFP
The presidency does not give Petro the power to ban bullfighting, but his support for initiatives in Congress to that end will be decisive.
In his campaign, he promised that his political project would include the defense of animals and anti-bullfighting senators expect his support on the legislative agenda.
Petro has the support of political leaders, such as the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, who has seconded his call to stop the bullfights, which she describes as "death shows".
Andrea Padilla, senator elected by the Alianza Verde, believes that with the new government there will be, like never before, an opportunity to advance in the defense of animals.
“I would expect there to be a very clear message from Petro in support of this type of project.
That was a commitment that he signed on the campaign, ”says Padilla.
Her first proposal as a senator will be precisely to put an end to the corralejas, although she knows that it is not easy, until now no proposal in this sense has prospered in Congress.
"The novelty is that this time there will be some important progressive forces and for the first time with a left-wing president," she says.
The Constitutional Court protects bullfights and has reiterated that the territorial authorities and especially the mayor's offices or councils lack the power to ban bullfights or modify the legal conditions for their performance.
"Many of the corralejas, bullfights and not to mention cockfights systematically fail to comply with these conditions of the Court," said the senator-elect in an interview with El Espectador.
The former councilor led a project to discourage bullfighting in Bogotá, which imposed impossible rules for a bullfighter, such as not killing the bull.
“We seek a ban in two years, but in the meantime, a transition must be considered, there is always a concern about the economy,
then we would propose that the Court's ruling be respected, which indicates that the death of the animal must be turned into a show", he insisted.
But the bullfighters consider that the sole proposal violates their rights.
“We are bullfighters, we are not going to become actors,” says Bolívar, who among his arguments warns that the fighting bull is being put in danger of extinction.
“They attack the environmental justice that they claim to promote so much, by wanting to annihilate the most respectful livestock exploitation with the environment.
I think the country does not know that many hectares of Palma de Cera del Quindío, the national tree, are guarded in the Cocora Valley by the fighting bulls of the Salento cattle ranch.”
In 2012, Bolívar, along with other Colombian and Spanish bullfighters, held a meeting with the then president, Juan Manuel Santos, to defend their work and ask for the protection of their rights.
Now they are looking for a space with Petro to convince him that the bullfighting party will end when people freely decide not to attend.
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