Monday, October 22, 2012

Drunk Driver Who Killed Three "Is not a Criminal."

Motorcycles lined up outside Bogotá's Central Cemetery
during the motorcyclists' funeral.
In another in Colombia's long series of cases of fatal drunk driving being considered a forgiveable act, the wealthy Caleño businessman who mowed down three motorcyclists and injured one more with his Mercedes Benzoutside of Bogotá while apparently drunk, will now get out of jail.

The driver "was transferred from La Modelo Prison to a site of special detention," attorney Iván Cancino told reporters the other day. 'Special detention' apparently means 'home sweet home'.

A motorcycle club was returning from an outing in La Calera the night of July 7, when Juan Carlos Varela Bellini smashed into them. Immediately after the accident, some witnesses said, Varela Bellini offered witnesses bribes and tried to pretend that he hadn't been driving. Varela Bellini also attempted to flee the scene of the accident and evade the drunkeness test, a judge said. Now, Varela Bellini has agreed to pay the survivors 1,400 million pesos, or a little over one million dollars, in return for dropping charges. That seems like mighty little for three lives, and makes you wonder if anything else was behind it. (The agreement was approved by prosecutors and a judge, Varela Bellini's lawyer said.)

"The important thing is for the world to know that Juan Carlos Varela Bellini is not a delincuent," the accused's lawyer said.

Motorcycle club members at their companion's funeral.
Varela Bellini, 25, belongs to one of the wealthiest and most elite families of the city of Cali, as you can read in this sympathetic story about his misfortunes in Jet Set magazine. How sad it would be for this young man's future to be ruined just because he killed three people. But, it may not be. By paying what is a small fortune for the victims' families, but not much for Varela Bellini's clan, he likely will go on in comfort.

Sure, the survivors will be better off with their pockets full. But those of us on the road in front of drunk drivers feeling confident that they'll get off lightly for any accident, are worse off. That's why drunk driving is a crime against both the individual victims and society in general. By letting drunks off easy the legal system sends a loud and clear message that driving drunk is no big deal, so go ahead and risk it.

And that drunk driver just might be Varela Bellini again. I haven't heard that they've taken away his driver's license or his Mercedes.

If I carry a gun or a knife or a hammer, get drunk and injure someone with those things, aren't I a criminal? Is a car, which is much bigger and potentially more deadly, any different? As I understand it, in other nations' legal systems, when you get drunk and lose control of your behavior, the law makes you responsible for your actions.

But, that's apparently not true in Colombia - at least not when you're rich and behind the wheel.


The Motorcyclists' Tragedy

Motorcyclists Rev Up Against Drunk Driving

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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