Viva Medellin! Viva Antioque! A Heartfelt Cheer Here

I’ve spent a whole day and night in this mysterious and misunderstood country. And I love it already! Colombia truly has gotten a bad rap, and over and over again, we got a chance by meeting friendly people and seeing wonderful sights to prove that it deserves a second look.

Of course, I’m not saying there aren’t problems here. A newspaper story was headlined “Three Days with No Homocides,” celebrating a dubious milestone for Medellin. But then I thought, what is New York or Chicago’s record? How many US cities go very long without any murders?

There are some interesting changes that have come with the state of extreme security now in place here. Motorcyclists must wear vests that have their plate number prominently displayed on the back, and on the helmet. That’s because of the large number of murders committed on the backs of speeding motorbikes.

The police, army and private security presence is extreme. It’s hard to walk that far without seeing some sort of a guy with a gun. Guardhouses are manned all over the place, and there are even men who wear jackets with Vigilancia on the back, these are sanctioned private neighborhood security forces who back up the cops. Roadways are full of police cars pulling over motorists and barriers and blockades are common.

Our guides told us that the last pockets of regular FARC and drug cartel problems are down by the Venezuelan and Ecuadoran borders. The bad guys run over the border and cannot be hunted down by Colombian forces. People here are angry with many Scandinavians who somehow confuse the FARC rebels with freedom fighting heroes, and actually give them money. There is no way these murdering drug dealers deserve any support–the list of horrors is long and proven.

The exhuberance that we felt today at the Flower Parade, when the crowd cheered Viva Medellin! Viva Antioque! was heartfelt. It was like we were hearing them cheer each other on, and to the rest of the world, all they can do is try harder to solve their security problems and invite them to come and see what Colombia is really like.