Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where Killing Has Turned Routine

Two of the rappers in
Bogotá's Central Cemetery.
Two of the teenagers who often perform anti-violence rap songs for our bike tours in the Santa Fe neighborhood made a spur-of-the-moment decision the other day: to attend the funeral of a 15-year-old boy who'd lived in their house until he was murdered a few days ago.

The boy had been stabbed to death, my friend told me, on Calle 15, after supposedly stealing a pair of sunglasses. My friend's decision to attend the funeral the other day in the Central Cemetery seemed like an afterthought: "We're taking off," one said, "to a funeral. But we'll catch up with you in a little while."

In fact, they stayed at the funeral longer than they'd expected. The victim had had many friends, who tossed flowers and baseball caps into his grave, as a sort of tribute. Even tho police also attended the funeral to monitor things, some of the mourners fired guns into the air during the service - indications to me that the victim's associates were not all choir boys, and that there was more behind the killing than just some sunglasses. Apparently, the killer's identity is common knowledge, except perhaps to the police, who only have a general description. He's fled to some small town to hide from the law - and from his victim's buddies. I suspect that the killer has more to fear from his victim's friends, who probably won't respect any due process if they catch him - perpetuating the cycle of violence.

My friends told me that this was their third acquaintance who's been murdered during their lives, which have lasted barely a decade. One friend, addicted to glue, was burned to death with the glue he consumed. Another, also a drug abuser, was discovered strangled under a bridge, the marks of the chain still on his neck. And, the other day, a loan shark was shot dead on the corner by their home in the Santa Fe neighborhood.

I'm lots older than these kids, but I can't think of any person close to me who's died violently. I pointed out to the boys that in many other nations the sort of routine violence which seems to surround them doesn't exist, or in a much lower degree.

Why does this violence happen in Colombia? How can it be reduced? The boys didn't know.

A stronger respect for the law would help. And a reduction - or legalization - of now illegal drugs would take away money from gangs and give them less to fight over.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Yes, legalising glue would really help these kids.

Miguel said...

HI Stuart - I hate to have to tell you this, but glue IS legal. It's sold openly in hardware stores all over Colombia. Of course, there's usually a sign saying 'Selling to minors prohibited.' But do you think that makes any difference?

There is a solution, however. The glue companies could add something to make the glue's odor noxious. However, they know this would hurt their profits and so don't. And the government doesn't oblige them to, despite all the harm caused by kids' easy access to glue.