|San Andresitos workers fill Simon Bolivar plaza in protest against an anti-contraband law.|
|Protesters wearing shirts charging that the anti-contraband |
law would mean monopolies and destroy small businesses.
At least, that's what many authorities believe. And perhaps the best evidence that they're right came the other day when thousands of owners and employees of the San Andresitos filled San Victorino and Simon Bolivar plazas with a deafening protest against a law raising penalties and jail terms for buying and selling contraband goods.
Colombia's huge contraband industry might seem innocent enough: It provides cheap imported running shoes, electronics and refrigerators, not to mention all of the gasoline consumed in regions near the Venezuelan border. It also employs many thousands of Colombians.
|San Andresitos stores on Calle 13 in Bogota.|
However, contraband's worst impact might be its role in money laundering. Drug cartels find it difficult bringing their illegal millions in profits back into Colombia thru the banking system. So, they convert them into legal goods, which may be either legally imported or smuggled in thru places like the La Guajira peninsula and marketed in the San Andresitos.
For years during the late 1990s and early 2000s, cigarette makers Philip Morris and British
|Cigarettes, many of them smuggled, for sale |
next to candy in La Candelaria.
Many of the boxes carry warnings in
English instead of he required
The San Andresito businesses skirt around the fact that so many of their products lack documentation. But, if those products aren't illegal, why are the San Andresito people so up in arms against it?
That cheap camera, pair of jeans or MP3 player may not be so innocent.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours