Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Drug War Disaster - or a Lesson?

Washington's unhappiness with the boom in Colombia's cocaine production, which has more than doubled over the last few years, has brought 'the most serious deterioration in bilateral relations in almost two decades,' says El Tiempo.

The situation has the Trump administration threatening to 'decertify' Colombia's drug-war efforts and Colombian authorities in response pointing out that Colombia has seized far more drugs than has the U.S., with far more resources.

But Colombia might also point to the U.S.'s inability to control illegal marijuana cultivation or the consumption of all kinds of drugs, either legal or illegal.

In fact, Colombia was long seen as Washington's model drug war ally: It fumigated crops, carried out forced erradication and accepted billions of dollars in U.S. aid, hosted U.S. soldiers and spy planes.

But, despite having all the ingredients to win, Colombia's anti-drug efforts have failed.

Colombian coca leaf production thru 2015: The upward trend has since continued.
This isn't the fault of Colombia, but of economics. Where there's demand for a product, there will be supply. If Colombia had somehow managed to erradicate its coca leaf crop, traffickers would simply have planted instead in Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, or even Asia or Africa.

Colombia is only fortunate - or smart - that the ongoing drug boom has not brought with it the violence it did decades ago.

The U.S., for its part, should recognize that its war on drugs has been a deadly, expensive mess, and that instead of throwing away more money and endangering relations with a close ally, it should decriminalize cocaine and switch to harm reduction policies.

But good luck finding that sort of sanity in the Trump administration.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Let The Homeless Eat Cake - or Starve!

An anti-social act? Giving food to a
homeless old man in Bogotá.
(Photo: El Banquete del Bronx)
Chalk this one up on the list of brilliant contributions to the public good by our city government:

Food donations to the homeless must meet high hygenic standards - or the hungry don't eat!

According to one police official, the new Police Code sanctions the distribution of food that doesn't have a sanitary registration - whatever that is. Perhaps a five-star restaurant, or at least a Juan Valdez, for the homeless?

The police also claim that distributing food to the homeless can cause fights and even homicides. A strange idea, which only makes one wonder what will happen if these people DON'T get food: Will they simply starve to death silently?

Anyway, what sort of hygenic standards do the homeless people's meals comply with when they DON'T receive handouts from churches and other groups? Take a look:
A homeless man searches thru trash for things to eat or sell. 
Does the food he'll find here have a sanitation registry?
Damnit! This pizza I found is past its sell-by date.
And pity the charitable folks who want to help the homeless - but are afraid of getting punished for doing so!

This is yet another example of government officials' urge to control everything they can, and their lack of empathy for those actually living in the real world.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Refrigerator Moving as a Spectator Sport

No, that's not a suicide attempt in process.
 If you live on the upper floor of a building with a narrow stairwell and no cargo elevator, then have your meals delivered and die of fatty artery disease. That's unless you want to become the neighborhood spectacle by having a bunch of strong men perilously deliver your refrigerator thru your window, as these residents of the Las Nieves neighborhood did today.

Just keep on pushing!
Are the onlookers hoping for success - or a tragedy?

Strong shoulder!

I had to leave the scene, but later on a witness informed me that, with the aid of thick ropes and a board, they managed to suspend the refrigerator horizontally and insert it thru the window. No more take-out!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

'Francis in the Land of the Narcos'

'Francis in the Fatherland of the Narcos,' in Spain's
El Mundo newspaper was not appreciated in Colombia.
,No nation likes to be labeled a 'narco state' - even when there's an element of truth in it. So, when Spain's El Mundo newspaper ran a story about the Pope's visit entitled 'Francisco in the Fatherland of the Narcos,' it generated lots of anger here.

Of course, if any nation ever was a narcoland, it was Colombia back in the '80s and '90s, when Escobar, his associates and his rivals in Cali kidnapped and assasinated politicians almost at will and even threatened to destroy the state. Today, despite record levels of cocaine production, Colombia has left the narcos era behind.

But, altho Colombia doesn't appreciate being reminded of Escobar & Co., some Colombians don't mind making money off of that legacy.

This Medellin tour promises that it's the real, original Escobar tour - and promises to contribute part of its income (but not how much) to social causes. This tour has 'EVERYTHING IN EXTREMES: POWER, MONEY, BETRAYAL, DRUGS, WOMEN, CRIMES, ARRESTS, ESCAPES, HIS OWN ZOO AND ALSO HIS OBSCURE DEATH.' the website points out, before veering away from the drama and violence to point out that many Colombians were impacted by the drug trade, and boasting that theirs is 'The tour accepted and recognized by local people.'

The scale of the tragedy from the narcos era would be hard to overestimate. Some say that Escobar killed 50,000 people, thru bombings, assassinations and general mayhem. Adding to that the other cartels and the general atmosphere of violence produced a homicide rate hundreds of times higher than that of a 'normal' European nation.

Here in Bogotá, the Colombian mafia tour makes no bones about what it's about:

While the 'Heroes tour', subtitled 'Colombia vs. Pablo Escobar', seems to aim to ignore Escobar by focusing on him.

Colombian television has never shied away from making miniseries about drugs, cartels, guerrillas and paramilitaries. However, there seems to be a bit of resentment against Netflix, which is making the real money with its Narcos series.

A Bogotá billboard advertising Netflix' Narcos series points out that the Medellin cartel emphasized violence, and the Cali cartel corruption.
As for the El Mundo article, it was actually a thoughtful piece about Medellin's renaissance and the city's role in Catholic Church history, particularly in the development of Liberation Theology. And the newspaper's editor admitted that the headline was designed to attract clicks. Such is the desperate nature of today's newspaper business.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Papal History of Bogotá

The ruins of the Archbishop's Palace in 1948, after the Bogotazo riots.
The Museo de Bogotá, located on Calle 10 between Carreras 3 and 4, has an exposition about the two previous papal visits: Pablo VI in 1968 and John Paul II in 1986. The city carried out some urban projects related to the visits, in particular a neighborhood built for Pablo near Simon Bolivar Park, which still carries his name. These are documented in the exhibit. But the real interest are the historic photos of central Bogotá sites.

Papal paraphenalia. Religious consumerism isn't new.
Plaza Bolivar in 1868.
Another view of Plaza Bolivar in 1868: A cattle pasture?

Plaza Bolivar around 1930.

Pope Pablo VI.

The interior of the Cabildo Eclesiastico.
And, to see Bogotanos' present-day Catholic fervor, take a look at the crowds still lining up in Plaza Bolivar today to see the image of the Virgen of Chiquinquira:

Waiting around. It's a long, long, line.

Pope Francis waves 'hi.'
Religious trinkets haven't gone out of style.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Friday, September 8, 2017

Don't Blame the Pope

Thank the government for these....
In case you want a Pope-themed map, just drop by Bogotá Bike Tours - or, most likely, dozens of other central Bogotá businesses, which, like us, received boxes of unsolicited maps showing central Bogotá's Catholic churches.

With the Pope departed, we've still got a box-full of these maps, printed using our tax pesos, which the faithful failed to carry away.

Want one? How about a hundred? Sad to think of the trees sacrificed for these.

It's yet another example of the government's efforts to tell you what you want, rather than letting you decide for yourself.

Pope soup, anyone?
Meanwhile, Oliver, the kiwi who runs the SPQR restaurant on the corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 12B, beside Bogotá Bike Tours, and who presumably is not a devout Catholic, offered 'Pope soup' in honor of the Holy Father's visit. Hopefully, the soup included only the Pope's name.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Waiting for the Pope

Thousands of Colombians (and a few gringos) flooded Jimenez Avenue this morning to see Pope Francis drive by.

Military Police wait on a side street, for whatever.

These guys, sleeping something off, had no use for the Pope.

Make a call while you wait.

Lining up to watch the Pope. Usually, people line up here to watch futbol.

The Pope doing mass on Plaza Bolivar didn't discourage these folks from evangelizing for some other Christian belief.
'Do it from below.' On a manhole cover.

These dogs had their own priorities.
On Caracol TV, 'The Pope talks to the young people,' with a minor grammatical error.

Waiting in a wheelchair, praying for a cure.
The Popemovil, on Calle 22.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours