A new Colombia is born? This ad on the front page of the New York Times says so, and there's some truth to it. Colombia's become much less violent and much more stable over the past decade, pushing the its drug and guerrilla conflicts into the background.
It's sad, tho, that the economy of the New Colombia will still depend on those same old raw materials, if we can judge by the ad's marketing push for Colombia's oil reserves.
Give the Colombian government - or its PR agency - credit for not ignoring the reality of the armed conflict. One of the photos even shows a protester's sign denouncing Colombia's long list of terror organizations: guerrillas, paramilitaries, BACRIM and even the state. That's pretty gutsy, and makes plain that as much as Colombia has improved in security and economically, it's still not Sweden. This is not the first time that the government's own promotion agencies have included references to the nation's troubles: Not long ago, the country's tourism slogan boasted: 'The only risk is wanting to stay.' Also a bit daring is the inclusion of a photo and interview with Tatiana Piñeros Laverde, a transvestite woman who is director of Bogotá tourism.
Colombia's huge change was made plain to me by an Australian tourist who did the bike tour the other day. She had traveled thru Colombia around 1990, when buses she was on were stopped by mysterious groups of armed men, who took passengers away, and when she was robbed and her companion beaten up by a taxi driver collaborating with police, she told me. Her current visit has been very different.
But, sadly, old images die slowly, especially when they're as dramatic as Colombia's. Vice News, for example, has a collection of sensationalized videos about drugs, sex and killing in Colombia, and I'm sure that they get lots more views than does the government's marketing propaganda.