LOVE / HATE...talks with Cabbies

What is the worst thing one nation can do to another?  How about invading at will and stealing territory?  And what if this territory is perhaps the most valuable in the world?  When Saddam invaded Kuwait and declared it a new state in the Republic of Iraq, the world, especially the US went crazy trying to defend the KIng of Kuwait from the Nazi-like aggressor.  We went to WAR!!!  Twice!!!  We were outraged!  We pitied the poor people of Kuwait and screamed for legitimacy.  "This shall not stand!",  said George Bush!

You who are reasonably well-read in history know where I'm going with this.
Cabbies shooting the Breeze

Panama...  of global strategic importance.  The canal built and owned by the US enabled our country to become a world power with a two ocean navy for the price of one, controlling trade between the Atlantic and the Pacific for the last century, was on territory which was part of Colombia just as North Carolina is part of the US.  Panama was a state in the Republic of Colombia until we wanted it, needed it, couldn't effectively negotiate for it (bribes) and saw a way to hire a bunch of Panamanian Patriots (paid thugs) to declare their independence from Colombia.  With the help of US arms and "Advisors" and gunboats in the Caribbean, the Revolution succeded...and we had the land for "Our" canal.  Bravo, Teddy Roosevelt!

The cabbies in Medellin know all about this.  Did you?  (Read "Overturn" by Steven Kinzer for all the details from Hawaii to Iran.)

They also know all about United Fruit. (Read "The Fish that Swallowed the Whale- United Fruit and the Banana Man") And they know that Colombia is as rich in oil as Venezuela and rich in emeralds, gold, uranium, heavy metals, coffee, chocolate, tropical fruit (bananas) etc etc and wonder why all  of the money goes to America.  The money for illicit drugs comes the other way, and of course that same George Bush declared the War on Drugs.  This results in spraying farmers and their families, and of course has been absolutely a failure, but the cabbies know about the spraying and the arms given to counter the drug dealing FARC, and of course our hunt for Pablo.  (Read "Killing Pablo"- Bowden ) .  Pablo tried to become a Robin Hood figure and almost succeded because of his ability to avoid extradition to the US,  tweaking the US' nose with impunity.

Medellin has triumphed over all of this becoming the beautiful, safe, and economically striving city that it is.  The cabbies know all about this and applaud any efforts to bring more Americans to their city.  Tourism can only benefit both the tourists and the people of Colombia.  As time passes they hope Pablo fades off of US TV, out of movies and articles and books.  They hope that he will become if anything a mythic figure like Al Capone or the Godfather. They and I hope that when the NY Times says to visit  safe and beautiful Medellin that they won't have to start their articles with a re-hashing of the depredations of Pablo Escobar.
Bonsai - Flower Fair, Medellin

Cabbies and other Colombian friends rarely tell me about how unsafe the US is.  They know that the murder rate in Washington DC is higher than that of Bogota. President Santos publicly wondered why the US State Department continues to publicize warning about travel to Colombia (Now only in the border area , not the cities, ) I hesitate to tell them, but I do, about parts of Richmond, Oakland, San Jose and of San Francisco which are dangerous;  of parts of Paris and parts of New York and London where the tourist can really be in trouble.  They read about our guns, and Trayvon Martin and wonder why when we are so rich we allow this stuff to go on.  They hear about the kidnappings of the Texas psycho and roll their eyes in wonder.  They feel bad about the US poor who have no health care, widespread obesity, no maternity leave, no free child care, high cost public transport, equal ticket prices with the rich, ,,,,

So they applaud the tourist Gringos, and US culture and grin from ear to ear about both Sofie Vergara and the new free trade agreement.  Both bode well for the future.