The new mayor of Cartagena de Indias, Dumac Turbay, began his term this Monday with a somewhat strange request: an exorcism. The office in the Customs Palace should be purged, Turbay said, because his predecessor and political rival William Dow had run the city from there for four years. The Liberal Party politician said, “There is no way for me to enter an office where the devil was.” He added, “I ask the Catholic Church, and I mean this, to do an exorcism.” This petition was a continuation of the hostile rivalry between Turbay, former governor of the Department of Bolivar, and Dau, a controversial opposition politician who accuses all politicians, and more recently Turbay in particular, of being thieves.
So far the new President has made his point. The office on the second floor of the mayor’s office – a colonial house that was once the main customs office in New Granada, once the largest port for the African slave trade in all of the Americas – remains vacant. Turbay, at the moment, works in the Palacio de la Proclamation, another architectural gem in the historic center of Cartagena and which houses the offices of the departmental government. From there, he has begun the task of reclaiming the historic center from the hands of the police, which, according to him, was “taken over by brokers and jibaros” during Dau’s mandate.
Turbay won election in late October by selling himself as an anti-Dau. He received approximately 160,000 votes, equivalent to 42% of the count. On Halloween, two days after the election, the then-mayor wore a Turbe mask and published a video on his social networks in which he said, “Tricky, tricky Halloween, I want money for myself, if there is no money for me” your nose falls. The heir apparent responded. He mocked his rival in X, 19 years his senior. “I am very concerned about the mayor’s mental health. I pray to God for your sanity. For this, we wish for a peaceful, cordial and harmonious relations process,” he wrote.
Candidates representing opposition politics, such as Dau, Judith Pinedo, known as Mariamulata, finished third in the regional elections. The unpopularity of the outgoing mayor was evident, and Pinedo – who was already mayor and left office with high popularity – tried to distance himself from him during the campaign. Furthermore, the list that people close to the former mayor, known as Fuera Malendrines, brought to the council was far from the limit for the election of councilors in the city; He got barely 6,000 votes in a city with a population of over one million.
The results were 180 degrees different than 2019. Dau, a lawyer who had recently returned to his homeland after working for 15 years in New York, decided to confront the particularly strong political class and corruption in Cartagena. Pervaded in Colombian politics. He went on to win the mayor’s office with 29% of the votes from an unknown person. However, as mayor, the pandemic and the difficulties in turning his talk of change into tangible facts affected his favorability, and his unpredictable personality became increasingly controversial.
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His tenure was filled with strange, sometimes objectionable, incidents. In 2019, before he took office, a judge ordered him to redact a video leaked on social media in which he accused Turbay of corruption. In August 2021, an interview of his went viral in which he explained the rehabilitation work on the city’s road network in a very strange way: with imitations of the sounds of trains, trucks and machines. “From today I allow myself to say u, u, u, u… finally we start with the rehabilitation of the road network. I come from Santendra Avenue and there we start: Uuuu, brrr, load the truck…,” said the then mayor.
A few months later, after an audio recording of a councilman’s session was released, the Attorney General’s office filed charges against him “for alleged violations of the duty to treat other public officials with respect, fairness and impartiality”, including This is how Daw treated his subordinates. “Truhans,” “faggots,” and “scumbags.”
But the controversies were just the tip of the iceberg; His management was also not well received. In 2022, Cartagena was the only one of the five major Colombian capitals in which poverty increased. According to Cartagena Como Vamos, by the end of his tenure, Dau’s disapproval rate was 64% and 8 out of 10 Cartageneros believed that the city was not on the right track.
Turbay took advantage of this poor image to launch a campaign criticizing his predecessor. At some point he accused him of being in charge of “the most corrupt” mayor’s office in Colombia, to which Dau responded emphatically: “I have reported you as a thief.” In the end, the career politician defeated the opposing politician and won the post of mayor. One of these days he will also keep an office in the Custom Palace. When exactly this will happen remains to be seen. First he is awaiting appointment with the Catholic Church, which has not yet responded officially to the public request.
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