Friday, July 19, 2013

Crime and (Little) Punishment

United States authorities are finding new legal arguments to extradite a group of taxi drivers and accomplices who allegedly robbed a murdered a DEA agent in Bogotá's ritzy Parque de la 93 neighborhood a few weeks ago. Now, the U.S. is accusing them of kidnapping for their attempted paseo millonario robbery-gone wrong.

An alleged drunk driver, now de-stressing in hospital,
and the results of his fatal work. (Foto:
When the taxi drivers thot they'd spotted another wealthy, vulnerable gringo leave a bar with a few drinks in him that night, they surely never imagined that soon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would be vowing harsh punishments for them.

People who commit robbery and murder deserve no pity, and I won't be sorry if they spend decades in prison. After all, these guys had criminal histories, almost surely had robbed and perhaps murdered previously, and would undoubtedly still be at it today if they hadn't grabbed the wrong gringo.

Still, it's impossible to ignore the huge contrast between this case, which has made international news and triggered plans to reform Bogotá's taxi policies, and other killings.

During the aftermath to the DEA agent's murder, a drunk driver in an Audi slammed into a taxi, killing its two female passengers and leaving the taxi driver partially paralized. El Tiempo reports that the man's initial medical examination found no stress problem at all.
Not a punishable crime? (

The drunk driver is now in a hospital, where the poor guy is being treated for 'severe stress' he supposedly experienced from killing two innocents and injuring a third.

Most likely, this drunk driver, like so many others, will escape with a slap on the wrist. Once his comfortable hospital stay ends, he'll likely receive a few years of home detention - of questionable enforcement - and then be driving again.

(In fact, at the drunk driver's July 30 court hearing the judge sent him home, saying he wasn't a flight risk. The victims' relatives expressed anger. Strangely, another drunk driver, who killed one person, was sent to jail the other day. The judge sounded like she was on the driver's side, saying that he was 'innocent until proven guilty - even tho he'd confessed - and asserting that, since he was from a wealthy family he wouldn't flee. (So only the poor deserve prison.) Finally, she congratulated the driver for 'resisting media and social pressures.'

Clearly, for her honor, the victim here is the killer drunk driver.

 It all makes one wonder whether something incorrect happened between this wealthy family and the judge.)

Citizen groups and some parliamentarians have made repeated attempts to give drunk drivers real punishment. But other members of Congress - some of whom have been known to drive drunk themselves - don't seem interested in making the laws stricter. At the same time, social and economic factors allow drunks, who often pay off victims or seem to have connections with judges and authorities, to get off lightly.

It's impossible not to read an economic lesson into these two crimes: Taxi drivers, who are usually lower middle class, get the book thrown at them for assaulting a wealthy foreigner, while drunk drivers, who are often wealthy, get off easy.

Check out this dramatic video of a wrong-way drunk driver hitting a man carrying his daughter to school on Thursday in south Bogotá. The driver, who'd had previous drunk driving charges, then allegedly tried to bribe and threaten the victim and attacked police.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: