SEMANA INTERNATIONAL / Roundup Report | 1/30/2009 12:00:00 AM
Europe has a say
Jan. 22nd – Jan. 29th — This week, SEMANA INTERNATIONAL found important news about Colombia in different newspapers and magazines around Europe, including Spain's daily El País and German based Spiegel-Online and Focus.
Before meeting his Spanish colleague in the heart of pomp at Madrid’s Moncloa Palace, Francisco Santos, Vice-President of Colombia, took a free hour for having breakfast with Berna González Harbour, a reporter from the Spanish daily “El País“. They met in the embassador’s place, and the table they sat at—so Ms. González—“was a sole extravagance of fruit, cheese, marmalades, bread, and eggs“. However, Mr. Santos preferred to narrow the choice, and ate only “salt-butter-and-bread, salt-butter-and-bread“, so Ms. González. Asked during breakfast about the dispersal of ties to paramilitary forces within Colombian political elites Mr. Santos said: “More or less 40 members of Congress are in jail, and that is nothing else than a proof of the solidity of our democracy“. Then he added: “How many Italian politicians are in jail?“
In the article called “Journalism Taught Me How Not To Get Tangled Up“ and published on Thursday (January 29th) in the print edition of “El País“, reporter González gives a quick review of the life of the former journalist, hostage, and NGO activist. Now Vice-President of the government of Álvaro Uribe, Mr. Santos said to “El País“: “Still, there are things that (...) do get you all tangled up, for instance how to put an end to Farc (...), or how to fustigate ever-rising drug trafficking, or how to vigilate the situation in Venezuela as oil prices fall (...), and obviously how to handle the ’parapolitics’ scandal“. Yet what caught the reporter’s eye during the whole interview was something else. Mr. Santos kept on asking: “Could I please have more salt?“
“The War Against Drugs Has Been Lost.” These words sum up the results of the International Congress on Drugs that took place in Berlin last week. For this reason Michael Schmidt, reporter of Berlin’s major daily “Tagesspiegel”, decided to make those words the title of his article published on Friday (January 23rd). He writes: “A world without drugs. Ten years ago, that was the objective of the United Nations. But reality looks a bit different. Cultivated territories grow, consume rather increases, criminality and HIV-infections, too”. According to Mr. Schmidt, the experts that gathered in Berlin were “alarmed”, and they supported a certainly old and well-known motto: “more prevention, less repression”. Sabine Bätzing, a socio-democratic German politician, is quoted saying: “The problem of drugs and all its associated phenomena (…) remain world-wide unresolved”. During the congress, that was organized by the Caritas Organization, Colombia was frequently mentioned as “the cocaine cultivation areas have multiplied” in the last years, so Mr. Schmidt. He also quotes Ricardo Vargas, a Colombian expert: “The penetration of drug related structures in politics is so advanced that a global counter-drugs policy cannot be applied locally any more".
Reports on drug trafficking remained in the headlines of the most important newspapers in Spain this week. The country’s major daily “El País” published in its print edition last Saturday (January 24th) an extensive story written by reporter Jesús Duva. In the article “Jules Verne-style druglords”, Mr. Duve explains how networks of Colombian drug traffickers use submarines to transport cocaine from Colombian coasts up to Mexico. He writes: “By land, by air, by sea… or under the sea. Anything goes”. According to “El País”, now local police has stopped and destroyed a total of 27 submarines since 1993, including the last two submarines intercepted near the Colombian Pacific coast at the end of 2008. Regarding Spain, Mr. Duva asserts that the country’s police has not yet had any concrete experience with this drug smuggling style. However, he reminds of the case of a submarine built in Galicia back in 2006: “Police suspected then that it had been constructed by Galician crime bands engaged by Colombian drug dealers for transporting cocaine to Spain from a mother ship anchored offshore”.
THE GOOD GERMAN
The German reporter Tobias Käufer wrote for his country’s major web-based news network “Spiegel-Online” an article called “Help Against the Bus Chaos”, published on Monday (January 26th). Reporting from Cali, one of Colombia’s most populated cities, Mr. Käufer describes how the Berlin-based software company IVU Traffic Technologies is aiding Cali’s mayor to prevent the “astonishingly chaotic streets” from succumbing to a “traffic-stroke”. “Germany exports punctuality, (…) the Berlin company has undertaken the task of bringing into life a punctual transport system in one of the most chaotic cities in Latin America”, Mr. Käufer writes. According to “Spiegel-Online”, the German company is one among a group of enterprises commissioned by Metrocali, the city’s traffic administration, to develop a software that coordinates the planning, disposition and operation of one thousand buses. “Almost ten German experts are working at this very moment in the world’s ‘capital of Salsa’ to put an end to daily chaos”, so Mr. Käufer. He adds: “Will this suit to the easy-going, South American life-style? The answer is yet to come”. But the enthusiastic Mr. Käufer seems to be forgetting something: it was also an utterly corrupt German company that helped Cali’s traffic step deeper into its present chaos. But let’s better not say the name.
THE BULLET-PROOF COAT
On the other hand, Colombia has been successively exporting its own cultural goods. According to a report published in the Spanish online-daily “El confidencial”, at the day of his presidential inauguration Barack Obama wore a bullet-proof coat—and in the evening a bullet-proof smoking—tailored by Miguel Caballero, a Colombian designer. The article “A Bullet-Proof Smoking for Obama Made in Colombia” was written by José Mendiola and published in “El confidencial” on Friday (January 23rd). Mr. Mendiola writes: “In the Secret Service, nobody has wanted to confirm or deny the news, but everything hints at that the suit was produced with a material similar to Kevlar fibre, that has enough density to resist a shot of a 9mm weapon”. And regarding Mr. Caballero, “El confidencial” adds: “the Colombian designer possesses an almost infallible quality control: he shoots every single one of his employees to prove the quality of his product”.
ONE MORE CHANCE
“The Return of Travel Business”. In this way, the German newsweekly “Focus” begins a report on the long way that Colombia has had to trek for being accepted, once again after years, in the brochures of European travel agencies. “For some time, Colombia had disappeared of the world map of tourism”, so the article published on Tuesday (January 27th). According to “Focus”, change has come after European Ministries of Foreign Affairs recently informed that security in Colombia has generally improved during the last five years. Now, for example, Studiosus, one of the biggest student exchange agencies, has included Colombia in its programm, “after years of abstinence”.