Bogotá Meetings Day 1

After a few days in Medellín, our group flew to Bogotá — the nation’s capital — to meet more government and business leaders.

We enjoyed police escort our entire time in Bogota; we stayed in a fancy hotel; we ate at fancy restaurants; and our meetings took place in the type of buildings that require an index finger scan before entering. So I can’t say we saw “real life” Bogota — but from our admittedly high-end vantage point I would still say that the city seems cosmopolitan, wealthy, fast-paced, and everything that a capital city ought to be.

We spent most of the afternoon with four communications strategists / political consultants who all served at one point or another in the Colombian government. They rattled off a bunch of stats and points:

  • The physical size of Colombia is France, Spain, and Portugal put together!
  • When Uribe came to power, the country needed a fireman. That’s what Uribe was: someone who could put out fires.
  • 80% of the world’s kidnappings in the 1990s were in Colombia. That number has fallen drastically.
  • Uribe first term was different than Uribe second term, and if he gets a third term he will be different still.
  • If the country can amend the constitution this time for Uribe, why couldn’t an evil person do it in the future? What kind of precedent does it set?
  • The U.S. embargo with Cuba was designed to bring down Castro. It hasn’t. It’s failed.
  • In one election Paleo Escabar killed four of seven presidential candidates.
  • 80% of Colombians support a third Uribe term. What’s the difference between democracy and populism?
  • “There’s war, and we have a good general, why change generals in the middle of war?” – Uribe position

In the evening we met with former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria. Gaviria doesn’t support Uribe as a current president nor does he support a third Uribe term. He thinks that the security situation in Colombia under Uribe is better, but the narco-trafficking hasn’t changed much. He thinks there are still corruption issues. Like so many of the guys we met, Gavriria speaks passionately about security issues in Colombia with first-hand experience: several of his family members have been killed by guerillas or paramilitary groups.

The next day in Bogota, we met the head of the national police force. There are no local police departments — only one national police. Imagine the FBI doing local and national law enforcement.

The policy academy is a university — it issues bachelors degrees. All the police officers, then, are well educated and motivated.

He said that the police force will never be able to pay officers what the drug cartels can. So stopping corruption within the force is not just a matter of higher salaries; it’s a matter of values, leadership, etc.

He noted that the consumption and production line when it comes to the drug trade is blurring: used to be U.S. consumed, Colombia produced. Now U.S. is producing some drugs (meth etc) and Colombia has growing consumption population.

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