October 28, 2006


Colombia city makes a U-turn: Bogota, once a world capital of mayhem, is now held up as a model. (Chris Kraul, October 28, 2006, LA Times)

A decade ago, the Bosa slum was the black hole of Bogota. Its darkest corner was Laurel Park, a grassless, trash-strewn lot with open sewage and gun-toting gangs bent on muggings and murder.

Today, Bosa has paved streets, new schools, health clinics and cafeterias, and links to a new mass transit system. Laurel Park has been rechristened Park of the Arts and is alive with children at play and free theater, fashion shows and concerts.

Like much of this re-energized capital of more than 7 million inhabitants, the war zone that was Bosa has been transformed. [...]

[Ex-Mayor] Antanas Mockus, son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university rector, tried to restore a sense of citizenship, employing a whimsical approach that included using mimes to shame motorists into heeding stoplights and crosswalks. But he also played fiscal hardball to improve tax collection and clean up the city's finances.

Mockus said in an interview that he also attacked Bogota's seemingly unsolvable crime problem by approaching it as an "epidemiologist would tuberculosis." He mapped out areas where crime was highest and targeted them by increasing patrols and halting liquor sales selectively after 1 a.m. on weekends.

"Crime is caused not only by professional criminals but by social aggression, arguments that get out of hand, often when alcohol is involved," Mockus said. "My approach was that all of us have a rude person inside of us and it's our job to regulate him."

Although crime has by no means disappeared, most Bogotanos you stop on the street tell you their city feels safer.

"Two or three years ago, I never walked downtown alone. Now I feel I'm taking no risk in going," 25-year-old domestic worker Mari Cordero said as she left her job in Bogota's wealthy Chico section.

By the end of Mockus' first term in December 1997 (he was reelected in late 2000 and began a second three-year term in 2001), crime rates had begun to fall and public finances were strengthening. Thanks to Castro's improved property-tax collection and Mockus' reorganization of the power company, Mockus left a budget surplus of about $700 million for incoming Mayor Peñalosa.

A part-time professor and business consultant with the U.S. firm Arthur D. Little before taking office, Peñalosa used the surplus to launch a public works program designed to dramatically reduce traffic, which he describes as Bogota's bane. "Cars are lethal weapons that dehumanize society," he said.

"I could have used the surplus to build seven elevated highways for more cars, but that would have left no money for public spaces or libraries," Peñalosa said. "Those highways would have been undemocratic since 70% of Bogotanos don't have cars."

Using a model set by the Brazilian city of Curitiba, he planned and began construction of the Transmilenio bus system and restricted each private automobile's circulation to five days a week.

Almost worth violating the state border rule...

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 28, 2006 11:38 PM

Speaking of Brazil, The American Thinker links to a fascinating article in Investors Business Daily about ethanol and off-shore drilling in Brazil. http://www.americanthinker.com/comments.php?comments_id=6469

o/t -- Does anyone know if the names of blogs should be put in quotes or italics as would any other publication?

Posted by: erp at October 29, 2006 6:11 AM

using mimes to shame motorists

Wasn't the use of mimes to shame detainees in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib what set of the Leftist co-called Human so-called Rights Groups?

(You could make it an active like with <a href="The URL">The Webpage Name</a>.

For example <a href="http://www.americanthinker.com">The American Thinker</a> would become The American Thinker. A bit cumbersome, but useful, and make sure you preview it.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 29, 2006 12:38 PM

Raoul, thanks. That's exactly what I've been doing, they come up fine in the preview, but after I click "Post" they are never seen again.

Mimes freak me out for some reason, but why would they shame anyone? Were they using obscene gestures? You know how exquisitively sensitive are the brutal murderers of children who were held in Abu Gharib.

Probably in Brazil, motorists aren't up the literacy levels of Cuba, so putting up signs aren't helpful.

Posted by: erp at October 29, 2006 1:03 PM

OJ - I'm going to Bogota on Wednesday for a few days...I would be happy to have you join me one one of my trips there.

Posted by: Foos at October 29, 2006 9:49 PM

Foos, isn't Bogota in "the" time zone?

Posted by: erp at October 30, 2006 8:46 AM