Moral lessons (The ugly side of Colombia)

(A conversation with the Police, Medellin – 22/07/2018)

Sooner or later something like that would happen. In a way was meant to happen, but didn’t see it coming. What a beautiful country Colombia is, but like any place, it has its drawbacks.

Medellin is a very pleasant town, and perfect for a bit of relaxing and leisure. So in a backpacker trip, there are times where you need a bit of leisure and festive time. Medellin was perfect for this. I stayed in the most trendy-hipster part of the town, Parque Lleras. A pleasant area full of bars, places to eat and relax.

So no long after I joined the first bar, I managed to chat with a couple of local people. The night started to unfold nicely, friendly atmosphere and conversation. So when at some point, someone offered me some grass I engaged with the idea of having some, which I placed in my back pocket.

Few more drinks went on, until it was time to change venue. I started to walk in the street towards the next bar, when the police stop me. Perhaps was a random thing, but looking foreigner in Colombia obviously makes me more noticeable.

What happened next, you could imagine. Police searched me and, obviously, found the little grass in my pocket. Turns out that having some grass for your own use is not a legal issue, but these kind of things are not known beforehand and is difficult to argue with a police man.

So, the police men (they were two) started to reprimand me: ‘we (foreigners) are scum coming to their beautiful country to commit crimes’. After the moral reprimand, came the legal threat. They will have to take me to the Police Station and so on. And after these two, came the possible redemption. I could, instead of going to the station, pay ‘the fine’ for what I was doing. They asked me what would I prefer. To pay ‘in situ’ or going to the station. At that point I understood what this game was about and knew that money was the name of the game.

So I engaged with the idea of paying with no resistance and played along.

What it came after, was a very well orchestrated pantomime performed by the police. One of the officers took a device out where apparently was inputting data to obtain the amount of my fine. To come with an initial figure of $70 US dollar (I have converted the currency).

I did not have that money, so I took my phone out to charge my prepaid credit so I could pay him with card or withdraw the money. When the police saw this was going to leave any kind of trace kinda panicked… ‘What you doing?‘ he said.

‘I need to get money in my card, as I have no cash to pay that amount’ – was my answer

‘Don’t worry. There is a discount, so you don’t have to pay the full amount’ – And once again, went back to his device to play god knows what, to come with the reduced figure – ‘$35 US dollar it is!’

As I was trying to get the cash, the police men told me to hide it (not to have it in my hands). They asked me to move to a darker area of the road (where no cameras are present) and place the money of the ‘fine’ in my back pocket. Not to give it in their hands.

So, I gently placed the money in my back pocket. The police played the game was searching me again just to take the money from my pocket. And after I paid the money, they returned to me my little grass so I could use to relax after the stressful experience. How kind of them!

So what a great moral lesson I got from these police men. Other travelers told me similar stories, but I never thought it could happen to me.

To end up the story, 5 min after and 100m away from my moral lesson learnt about the police and values, someone tried to mug me and get my phone. He did not succeed as I reacted cleverly. But I am sure my contribution to police funding will help for police to be more efficient and avoid robbery in city centers…..

By the way, anyone know how to claim the receipt of the fine I got?

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