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For the last 12 months or so Colombia seemed to be on the crest of a wave somewhat. This was mostly down to the implementation of the peace deal signed between the government and the country’s largest rebel group, Farc.
Heady times, albeit superficially and in just some areas. The bounce Colombia got internationally was apparent in numerous foreign media reports naming it as one of the must-see places in 2017. Add to this President Juan Manuel Santos’ scooping of the Nobel Peace Prize and the grounds for optimism were clearly there.
However, considering Colombians can be as cynical as the best of them (amongst themselves that is, not normally to outsiders) coupled with a belief in many quarters that the Farc peace accords change very little in practice, the optimism certainly appears to have waned. (It should get a small shot in the arm with Pope Francis’s upcoming visit here in September.)
Indeed, for some, the place is getting worse. A well-to-do Scotsman who has called Colombia home for the last 27 years believes this to be the case. He says that for the first time in his almost three decades here, he feels things are regressing. That seems quite a statement bearing in mind that when he first came here Pablo Escobar was still wreaking havoc.
So why, at a time when Colombia seems as open and welcoming as it ever has been, the negativity? The following sheds some light on things:
Cocaine. Its mere utterance gives most Colombians a sinking feeling; the scourge of the country for decades.
Of course, the substance is ingested just as much, if not more so, in North America, Europe and Australia as it is in these parts, but here is the source.
As long as the external demand and enormous profits to be made from it continue to exist, cocaine production won’t slow down any time soon. In fact, the opposite has been the case of late, it has increased.
The money in the white powder offers a route to riches that ‘legitimate’ Colombia can’t come anywhere close to. Thus, it’s mob rule where cocaine is king with officialdom either turning a blind eye or implicated in it.
A not so well-oiled machine
In contrast to Venezuela, Colombia’s oil revenue looks set to fall substantially in the coming decade.
Unsurprisingly, sources in the industry here say the government lacks any sort of plan for a not-too-distant future when the country will have to import the resource.
We’d expect Venezuela to have its house in more normal order in 10 years’ time than it is now, so maintaining good relations with the oil-rich neighbour is key. Welcoming fleeing Venezuelans with open arms during this current crisis might just be the right strategy.
Short-term gain, long-term loss
As for the lack of forward-thinking in terms of resources, so it is for practically every other area, especially in the likes of education and infrastructure.
Unfathomable and often contradictory legislation enforced arbitrarily combined with rampant corruption mean progress is slow or there’s none at all.
In such an environment there are few signs that the vast inequality is being reduced. This ensures continued envy and justification for crime from the have nots.
Reasons to be cheerful?
Notwithstanding the above, we’re not running away from the place just yet. The fact that the country is in a state of flux, a tad chaotic if you will, both excites and frustrates many foreigners based here.
Plus, with La Selección (men’s national football team) on the verge of World Cup qualification, the powers-that-be can rest assured that the football-mad masses will forget all their daily strife, at least for a time.
And that’s how things tend to roll here. Live for the moment, to heck thinking about the future.
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