Monday, January 30, 2012

Pick the Prison-Worthy Crime

On the left: Men throw dice on Plaza San Victorino, near a 'Chance' shop.
On the right: a traffic accident on 26th St. 
Which crime deserves harsher punishment? Small-time gambling, or drunk driving and killing someone?

In Bogotá, apparently the former.

Today's El Tiempo reports that, despite officials' vows to crack down on drunk drivers, motorists who kill others while drunk continue receiving short prison sentences or are even allowed to do their 'prison time' at home. 

'Three illegal Chance
sellers sentenced to
four years in prison.''
In contrast, I saw this photocopy today warning that several vendors of illegal 'Chance' tickets had received four-year prison sentences. Those are people who sell either counterfeit tickets from the city's official Chance numbers game or tickets for their own, unofficial and illegal numbers games. Numbers games are bad bets and mostly take money from poor people, who can least afford to lose their money. Bogotá's official Chance game is supposed to finance health care, and the government estimates it loses close to 1.5 billion pesos - or $800,000 dollars - per month because of fraud and illegal games.

Financing health care:
an official 'Chance' ticket shop.
But selling fraudulent tickets can't compare to the immorality or damage from getting drunk, driving a car and killing someone. But, El Tiempo reports, judges continue to consider drunk driving deaths 'unintentional,' and so deserving lighter punishment than a deliberate killing. In contrast, many other nations hold people responsible for their actions while under the influence. Otherwise, inebriation becomes a license to kill, as happens here.

El Tiempo also reports that drunk drivers often pay off their victims' families to drop charges against them.

As so often happens, 'justice' obeys economic power. And in Colombia car drivers are by nature people with money, if only because they own cars.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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