Conjuring and Consolidating a Turnaround: Governance in Bogotá, 1992-2003

Matthew Devlin, Sebastian Chaskel

A once proud city, Bogotá was on the verge of ruin by the late 1980s. Its government was corrupt and dysfunctional, and the Colombian city regularly ranked among the worst places in the world in which to live. In 1986, then-president and former Bogotá Mayor Virgilio Barco lamented that “of that booming city that I governed, today all that is left is an urbanized anarchy, tremendous chaos, immense disorder, a colossal mess.” Beginning in 1992, however, Bogotá enjoyed a string of mayors who succeeded in turning the city around. The first of these mayors, Jaime Castro (1992-1994), fought to establish the financial and political framework that would empower the mayor’s office to function as a nucleus of reform. Castro’s successor, Antanas Mockus (1995-1997 and 2001-2003), built on that legacy, consolidating gains in the face of entrenched opposition on the city council and bringing tangible benefits to the population in the form of exemplary public-service delivery. By 2002, the United Nations had selected Bogotá as a “model city” to be emulated across Latin America and by early 2010, Mockus had emerged as a front-runner in Colombia’s presidential elections.

Year of publication: 
Princeton Innovations for Successful Societies
Themes and sectors: 
Themes and sectors: 
Urban management
Case story length: 
12 pages

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