Jaime Castro Castro
Mayor of Bogotá, 1992-1994,
Overcoming corruption, Organizing a municipal center of government
depoliticization, decentralization, reform planning, containing patronage pressures, building a reform team and staff, city reform, organizing a municipal center of government
Matthew Devlin and Sebastian Chaskel
Tue Oct 6 2009
Castro describes his role in issuing the 1993 Organic Statute of Bogotá that put an end to decades of governability deficit and bankruptcy in the city. He credits the Constitutional amendments of 1991 for enabling the reform process without garnering prohibitive resistance early on, but he attributes that lack of opposition to indifference and underestimation of the future impact of the changes rather than agreement with the project for Bogotá. Once the constitutional mandate for passage of the statute was in place, drafting was initially delegated to Congress, while Castro found himself participating in what he describes as a de facto joint administration with the Bogotá Concejo (city council) that exceeded the limits established by constitutional separation of powers. He dedicated his first year in office to assembling a highly competent and depoliticized team, in what amounted to a break with Colombian tradition. He managed to deal with pressures in this respect by appointing Concejo members’ protégés for politically inconsequential posts. During his first year, Castro also acquired the practical experience that would inform his draft of the statute once Congress failed to produce a viable document. The Organic Statute passed by decree in late 1993, and became the road map for Bogotá by formalizing the separation of powers between the mayor’s office and the Concejo down to the implementation level, introducing a decentralized regime within the city and setting the bases for comprehensive taxation reform. Castro was then confronted with high political costs —including the possibility of impeachment— that were compounded when the statute came into force at the same time that the electoral campaign of 1994 started. Castro points to the lack of immediate visibility of the reform that made him especially vulnerable to criticism by political opportunists, particularly on taxation matters. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the statute was left untouched as it began to deliver results. In discussing potential shortcomings of the final statute, Castro highlights the lack of attention to the regional dimension. On that note, he calls for a unified approach to address common problems across issue areas that plague Bogotá and the surrounding municipalities in Cundimarca. In closing, he encourages other reformers to take office ready to spend rather than increase their political capital by passing unpopular but necessary measures.
A lawyer and statistician by training, Jaime Castro Castro had a distinguished academic career in public administration. In 1968, he was appointed as Presidential Secretary for Administrative Reform under President Carlos Lleras Restrepo. Two years later, he became President Misael Pastrana’s Legal Secretary to the Office of the Presidency before being promoted to Minister of Justice and Law in 1973. A year later, he was elected Senator and later served as Minister of Government for Belisario Betancur. He was a member of the National Constitutional Assembly of 1991 before being elected as mayor of Bogotá in 1992. After completing his term in 1994, he has remained active in politics and academia.