|La Concordia Park: Scene of the non-crime.|
So, the other night I'm in this little park above La Candelaria. It's a quiet place with a view, where neighbors walk dogs, couples make out, musicians strum guitars, kids play basketball and futsal...and sometimes folks drink and smoke pot.
I was reading the newspaper while my dog Parchita occupied herself barking at other dogs. (I have to lie down because of an inflamed gut condition, for which I'd be greatful to know of anybody in Bogota who can supply human whipworms, Trichuris trichiura) Suddenly, three cops rushed up.
"Stand up! Against the fence! Hands behind your head!"
I did so, and they frisked me.
"What's going on?" I demanded. "You've got no reason to suspect me of anything."
|What have you got in there? Police search a man |
on La Plaza del Chorro, in La Candelaria.
"Empty your pockets! Your wallet! What have you got in your socks?"
I emptied some scraps of paper, coins, crumpled peso bills and house keys. Nothing particularly suspicious there.
Three more cops came trotting up to deal with the expanding emergency of the gringo who couldn't be incriminated.
"Look," I pointed out to them, "while you're up here searching for something I don't have, someone's probably being mugged down the hill."
They glared back, not seeming to appreciate my advice about their work policy. But my attitude seemed to further confirm my guilt to them. Only the woman cop displayed some sympathy.
|Criminal territory? La Concordia Park during the day. |
It's a nice, green island.
In their certainty that I had contraband somewhere, they broadened their search.
"Is that your bike?"
It was, and he proceeded to search the saddlebag, finding an old camera, some batteries and some random pieces of paper.
"Take your shoes off!"
"Take your shoes off!"
"People are probably being mugged right now down that hill," I reminded them.
"I said to take off your shoes!"
So I did.
Finally, frustrated and likely as certain as ever of my guilt, the cops went on to search a couple sitting higher up the hill. But before departing he expressed a sudden concern for me.
"What are you doing in this park? It's dangerous!"
"Dangerous?" I asked. "There are six cops here."
In fact, I've never had a problem in that little park, altho I have often smelled pot in the air. I haven't smoked pot for many years, and the few times I did way, it never did much for me. But, as long as they're downwind, I'd much rather share the park with mellow pot smokers than with rowdy drunks.
I've been frisked many times before in Bogotá, but this time was by far the most thorough. For the record, the cops have always acted correctly enough - even if the searches go overboard. Thankfully, they've never planted anything on me or asked for bribes.
A few weeks ago, I was in Independence Park one evening when two young 'auxiliary' cops rushed over to me.
"Are you smoking marijuana?"
No, I wasn't smoking anything, I told them. They sniffed my hands.
"We smelled pot!" they asserted accusingly. This crisis was apparently my responsibility.
"Who was smoking pot around here?" they demanded.
Not being the park's designated drug sniffer-outer, I had no idea.
Reluctantly, they walked away.
The Summit of the Americas beginning today in Cartagena is expected to discuss drug policy and whether or not the War on Drug is the best approach. The current presidents of Colombia and Nicaragua, as well as ex-presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, have all suggested trying out drug decriminalization. But the United States' continued backing of prohibitionism likely means no changes soon.
On the other hand, Colombia's Congress is considering bringing back the old personal dosis of drugs, which would permit people to carry small amounts of drugs for personal use, but not sales.
Will any of this enable one to read the paper in the park without having his shoes inspected? Unfortunately, that's not likely anytime soon.
Parks should be healthful places, especially for kids. So, I prefer that all drugs, whether legal or illegal, be kept out of them. You shouldn't be forced to swallow a stranger's tobacco smoke or stumble over beer bottles in order to walk your dog.
But, having one's shoes and wallet searched thru seems like a pretty high price to pay.
Drug Decriminalization on Cartagena's Agenda!
The Hay Festival: Culture and Drug Policy
What if Colombia did 'Legalize'?
Minimum Dose, Maximum Controversy
Santos Finally Says It
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours