Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bogotá, how are you feeling?

Some recent poll results suggest Bogotanos aren't feeling so great.

Citizen collaboration? A sign appeals to
Bogotanos to report violence. 
According to Red Ciudades just more than half - 51% - of Bogotanos feel that things are going well in the capital. In other Colombian cities, between 60 and 80% of residents feel optimistic. Worse, only 20% of Bogotanos reported feeling secure from crime - also the lowest of all the major Colombian cities. And 27% of Bogotanos reported having been the victim of a crime in the last year - the highest of the cities polled. That doesn't surprise me, as I've recently heard of a number of muggings, bike thefts, etc. Why crime might rise despite a growing economy and a supposed police anti-crime offensive, I'm not sure. It might even be only a question of perception. But a lot of us perceive it.

And Colombians overwhelmingly doubted that most crimes would be punished (for some reason, however, this question was apparently not asked in Bogotá).

This makes it unsurprising that 57% of Colombians (not just Bogotanos) told Gallup pollsters they'd be willing to give up civil liberties in order to increase security. With civil institutions as frequently corrupt and frail as Colombia's, that's a worrying number. As I see it, strengthening civil society, getting Colombians to use their civil liberties is the best way to build an alternative to the violence which has afflicted this nation for so long.

Unsurprisingly, too, Pres. Juan Manuel Santos, who was Pres. Uribe's defense minister, continues to be super popular, with 77% support, while national police director Grl. Oscar Naranjo and ex-Pres. Uribe are right behind him. Colombians still want law and order and hanker after a strongman, a reason why Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus never had a chance to be elected president. Surprisingly, however, 70% of Colombians like Barack Obama - even tho the U.S. is slashing Plan Colombia support and hasn't ratified a free trade agreement.

On the other hand, it's no surprise at all that Bogotá Mayor Samuel Moreno's UNPOPULARITY rating is 85%. And many Colombians feel that corruption is getting worse.

Work on Ave. 26 drags on - for how much longer?
Bogotá certainly has a sense of malaise hanging over it, and that's mostly due to mayor Moreno. The Transmilenio expansion projects are necessary and will benefit the city, but they're so far behind schedule and embroiled in corruption charges that instead of generating a sensation of advancement, they've got Bogotanos feeling frustrated. This will likely improve once the projects finally wind down.

Near Jorge Tadeo University, a new TM station is taking shape. 
Nevertheless, city hall won't confront the fundamental transit problem of too many cars. TM and a possible metro system will move users faster, but the traffic jams and pollution will meanwhile only worsen.

The survey did also produce some positive results: a majority of Colombians liked their health and educational services.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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