August 16, 2007


Medellín, a former drug battleground, is reborn (Grace Bastidas, August 16, 2007, NY Times)

It was Thursday evening in Medellín and the open-air bars and cafés along fashionable Lleras Park were overflowing with after-work singles. At Triada, a stylish lounge with an orange neon bar and low-slung couches, laughter filled the subtropical air along with the deep-toned drumming of cumbia music. From around the corner, a small group of motorcyclists screeched by, their shiny engines puttering like machine guns. No one flinched, and the party kept rolling.

Not long ago, this scene would have been unthinkable in Medellín, once considered the most dangerous place on earth.

During the 1980s, Medellín, Colombia's second largest city, was home to the drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose infamous cartel turned the city into a bloody battleground and the world's cocaine capital. Gangs roamed the narrow streets, extortionists preyed on the city's residents and narcotics traffickers staged attacks against the police.

"You couldn't step outside," said Bibian Gomez, 28, a commercial real estate broker who sought refuge in the resort town of Cartagena at the height of the violence. "Whenever you saw a young guy on a motorcycle you thought that he was an assassin."

But in the last decade, this city of two million, with its beautiful colonial architecture and year-round springlike weather, has awakened from its drug nightmare. Escobar and his minions are gone and the cocaine trade has been largely dispersed. Bullet-riddled neighborhoods are coming to life with art museums and well-designed parks. And the constant rumble of construction - new shopping malls, flashy casinos and luxury hotels - can be heard throughout the city.

Nothing drives the Left crazier than the repeated success of rightwing regimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2007 8:28 AM
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