Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero Pretends To Ban Gasoline Vehicles – To Win Friends And Influence Abroad?
In a curious move last Friday, Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero signed a decree while attending the C40 World Mayors Summit taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week that would ban the “circulation” of cars and motorcycles using gas or diesel fuel beginning in the year 2035, over a decade after he would no longer be in office.
— Daniel Quintero Calle (@QuinteroCalle) October 21, 2022
This comes a month after, during the Clinton Global Initiative event in the US, he announced he would ban the sale of gasoline vehicles, which legal experts promptly poo-pooed as illegal and unenforceable, pointing out that mayors have no such power.
A partir del 2035 en Medellín no habrá venta de vehículos a gasolina. Este es un paso más por nuestro planeta, por su futuro. pic.twitter.com/tHXz2yrVIo
— Daniel Quintero Calle (@QuinteroCalle) September 21, 2022
Taking real action against emissions or Medellin’s dangerously high pollution would be laudable and is urgent. While Medellín, based at the bottom of the Aburrá Valley does suffer from serious pollution caused largely by hydrocarbon emissions, the mayor seems intent on winning friends and influencing people abroad with these moves, as when the decree would supposedly come into effect, he will be long gone. Quintero’s term as mayor runs from January 1, 2020 through 2023, and re-election is prohibited.
Quintero is pretending to make administrative decisions for a mayoral administration three terms into the future.
“Pico y Placa” or the restriction of vehicle circulation based on the coincidence of license plate numbers with hours or days of the week is common in Colombia and other Latin American major cities, and in Colombia, the municipal administrations do have significant authority to periodically adjust the measures based on traffic and meteorological conditions.
For this very reason, Colombians realize that using Pico y Placa regulations to ban personal vehicles 15 years in the future, more than a decade after the mayor leaves office is profoundly risible, but the mayor is not an idiot. What could be the motivation? The locations of the mayor’s recent decrees offer clues. Both of these publicized announcements took place thousands of miles away from Medellín, in front of foreign audiences uninterested in and unaware of local political machinations.
In just two years, Quintero has gone out of his way to make powerful enemies at home in the valley. He likes to blame “Uribistas,” or followers of embattled former president Alvaro Uribe, and they certainly oppose him; but his opposition has grown far broader. He has attacked virtually the entire business community, and even has gained the enmity of major labor unions.
He was elected mayor as an unknown, a humble engineer from a poor neighborhood on the north side of town, raised by a single mother who died while he was still a student. A compelling story, and many from across the political spectrum were glad to see someone from outside the almost incestuous political clans break through.
But Quintero wasted no time revealing himself to be a populist class warrior, sowing chaos in Medellín institutions from business incubator Ruta N to utility conglomerate EPM through to EPM’s TIGO telecommunications affiliate and Hidroituango hydroelectric project. The drama even led to global ratings firm Fitch downgrading EPM’s credit as a bond issuer to one notch above junk bond status due to: “a deterioration of corporate governance controls at the company.”
Quintero worked especially hard to earn the ire of Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño, an informal “Keiretsu” or business alliance of most of Medellín’s largest companies, including Bancolombia, Grupo Sura, Grupo Argos (Argos Cement, Conconcreto Construction, others), and Nutresa, among many smaller companies and affiliates.
Quintero certainly has political ambitions beyond city hall, but he has perhaps unwittingly built a tremendous alliance from corporate executives to union bosses and civil society, ready to oppose him. He is no longer an unknown.
Perhaps this is why the mayor is spending so much time abroad networking with global civil society. He has a young family to look after, and in his early forties, a stint abroad might be a good financial and career move. Former President Ivan Duque spent much of his career in Washington, and deeply unpopular at home (even disdained by his own party of Uribistas) wasted no time returning, being named just two days after leaving office to a Washington DC fellowship at the Wilson Center think-tank (to “emphasize the importance of climate change,” no less)!
I am honored to announce that former President of #Colombia @IvanDuque will join @TheWilsonCenter as a Distinguished Fellow. His global focus will emphasize the importance of defending #democracy, climate change, and migration in the #Americas. https://t.co/rA5jS9M7jI pic.twitter.com/StdY8ael72
— Mark Andrew Green (@AmbassadorGreen) August 9, 2022
Current Colombian ambassador to the United States, former governor of Chocó, and former environment minister Luís Gilberto Murillo even had to renounce his US citizenship to become the ambassador, so working abroad in policy positions a respectable , even savvy step for current and aspiring Colombian politicians.
Thus in this context it may make sense that the mayor is emitting quite a bit of carbon “building a brand,” flying up and down the planet to win friends and influence people. His sole term as mayor is over the end of next year. Issuing and publishing decrees that he knows have no legal binding in front of adoring foreign audiences can make a lot of sense when one is thinking about the future…
That would be the mayor’s future, not the planet’s.
Filed as: Editorial Opinion & Analysis