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| 1/23/2009 12:00:00 AM

Rags in the Shadow of Riches

Jan 23 -- Prosperity of the Newly Glitzy Colombia Masks Rampant Misery Throughout Slums.

Inside Spanish ramparts built to repel pirate attacks lies a colonial gem -- the historic heart of this city on Colombia's northwestern coast, complete with $500-a-night hotel rooms, stylish restaurants and newly renovated apartments at Manhattan-like prices. To the government of President Álvaro Uribe, Cartagena symbolizes a new Colombia, vibrant and prosperous.

But outside the 400-year-old walls, away from the cobblestones and charm of the old city, is a swath of slums so miserable that public health officials compare conditions there to life in sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike those who live in and visit Cartagena' affluent heart, most of the residents of the ramshackle barrios are black. Drug trafficking is rife, children are malnourished and preventable diseases are common.

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EDICIÓN 1825

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