Green

Urban Jungles? See Wildlife Moving Into 7 Cities Around The World

Wild boars in Rome, big cats in Colombia cities, polar bears in Russian towns: a series of factors, including climate change and urbanization, is creating unlikely encounters between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

Wild boars jogging down the street, pumas sauntering through the neighborhood, coyotes patiently waiting for the traffic light to turn green… This isn't the stage set for a new Jumanji or Ace Ventura movie, but an increasingly common sight in residential areas around the world. In recent decades, deforestation, changing agriculture and livestock practices, global warming and the rapid expansion of urban areas into the natural habitats of animals have forced a growing number of species to adapt to life in the city.

And with no sign of urbanization slowing down, some experts suggest that we have entered into a new era where city dwellers must get used to sharing their space with four-legged neighbors.

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Not Safe For Netflix, Medellín Is Back To Its Bad Old Ways

A dramatic, cinematic-like bid to rob a gold depot in the iconic Colombian city associated with Colombia's most violent drug cartels is just the latest sign that the city is back to its its old system of crime and no punishment.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — The footage looks like a crime series filmed on location in Medellín, yet it was anything but fiction. Earlier this month, around 30 armed and hooded criminals tried to mount an assault on a gold foundry in the Colombian city's El Poblado district. Their masks, motorbikes and dump truck were all indications of how dangerous Medellín has become — and reminiscent of how unsafe it used to be.

Bystanders were brazenly filming it all, shouting admiration or surprise. Unbothered by the background noise of gunfire, their reactions were proof of how commonplace such incidents have become. Their attitudes also showed the tendency to see a potential tragedy as a joke. Meme creators and online improvisers were quick to respond with cheeky humor and mischievous concoctions.

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Capture Of Drug Kingpin Otoniel, What It Means For Colombia

The capture of Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker shows that in spite of the cartels' resilience, the state can and will fight crime at the highest levels, writes top Bogotá daily El Espectador.

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

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Sunday Murders, Morning Bike Thefts: The Data On When Crimes Occur

In Colombia, killings happen more often on Sundays. Most big city crimes in the U.S. happen during the day, though violence is a night-time thing. Weekends account for more than half of illegal acts in Cape Town, South Africa. A global glimpse at the "when" of crime.

BOGOTÁ — They call it the "criminal clock." The Colombian NGO Excellence in Justice Corporation (Corporación excelencia en la justicia, CEJ) recently published a study of or the hours of the day and days of the week when different types of crimes happen.

Some of the findings might not surprise: murder is an evening crime, though it occurs disproportionately on Sunday. Meanwhile, Colombian thieves are busiest in the mornings. Elsewhere in the world, we also see patterns that both meet and defy expectations.

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Ideas
Héctor Abad Faciolince

When Will COVID End? The Question That Won't Go Away

Vaccination was supposed to free us from the pandemic's frightening grip. Things would go back to normal, with parties and hugs and everything else. But now with the Delta variant, and the vaccines less than full-proof, COVID is again dominating our collective psyche.

-Essay-

BOGOTA — I often say, even if it's not really true, that I never get my hopes up too high. That way I can avoid disappointment. Only, life loses a good deal of its charm if you're rarely excited about anything. As Armando Manzanero's song (on nocturnal fantasies!) says, "Who cares if I live on dreams/If it makes me happy?"

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EL ESPECTADOR
Eduardo Barajas Sandoval

The New Conquistadors? What To Make Of The Billionaire Space Racers

Bezos, Branson, Musk. The billionaires throwing untold resources into private space travel may prove, in the end, to be visionaries. But they're also blind, it would seem, to real-world problems here on planet Earth.

-OpEd-

There is no shortage of people hailing the tycoon-space-adventurers Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk as modern-day equivalents of Christopher Columbus, Americo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan. Only in this case, the quest to cross new frontiers comes against a backdrop of climate change and a global pandemic.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Juan Manuel Ospina

Colombia: The Cost Of 50 Years Of Failed Drug Policies

Colombia, not the United States, has been the chief victim of drug trafficking and failed anti-narcotics policies. It has a right, if not a duty, to seek other ways of curbing a chain of actions that have corrupted its society.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Historically, Colombia has not been indifferent to the reality of that disastrous enterprise called the war on drugs. It was a hypocritical and, as we can see now, utterly useless endeavor launched by U.S. President Richard Nixon. More than 50 years later, it's a universal example of political stupidity and clumsiness. The only thing Colombia has observed is that drugs have advanced unchecked and diversified in terms of products and customers. The marijuana dear to hippies is often hailed today as a miracle remedy. Magic mushrooms, already used in traditional cultures, gave way to a "line" of coke and heroin for executive types and partygoers, and more recently to chemical products made in the main consumer markets, which are the industrialized countries.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Jorge Tovar

The Europe v. South America Football Question Has An Easy Answer

European soccer is inspiring and professional, in sharp contrast with the national histrionics and 'amateurish' mediocrity of South American football.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — There's no year like 2021 for comparing the state of the art of world football. In the same year, month and almost at the same hour, we could compare the best of European and South American soccer. And we haven't come out of it looking good.

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EL ESPECTADOR
María Mónica Monsalve

Colombian Farming: The Costs Of Replacing Coffee With Avocados

The Hass avocado, fast becoming one of Colombia's big export earners, is  threatening local ecosystems and causing water shortages.

BOGOTÁ — One of Colombia's star export products, the Hass avocado, has cracked open two major environmental issues: the destruction of traditional landscapes and recurring water shortages.

The country has been promoting the Hass avocado since 2016, and proudly publicized in early June the arrival of its first 1.6 tons of Hass in South Korea, Asia's fifth biggest importer of avocados. But on May 29, the Senate's Fifth Commission, which considers land and environmental issues, questioned Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Enrique Zea about the effects of Hass farming in the Quindío department.

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EL ESPECTADOR

Daniel Ortega Must (And Can) Be Stopped

The region, from the U.S. to Latin America, has the diplomatic, economic and legal leverage to end the brazen abuses of Nicaragua's aspiring dictator-for-life.

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — The repression recently unleashed in Nicaragua by its ruler Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, has culminated in the jailing of the main candidates in the country's upcoming presidential elections, which take place in November, as well as of journalists and regime opponents. These actions are an insult to democracy in the region. Amid increasing international isolation and repudiation, and with sanctions imposed on their family, the Ortega-Murillo couple has already overcome the regime of Anastasio Somoza, the dictator Ortega helped to topple in 1979, in the number of killings, violations of the law and acts of corruption.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Catalina Ruiz-Navarro

Colombia Protest Violence: Stop Blaming The Victims

More than 20 people have been killed since demonstrations erupted against a government plan to raise taxes. Dozens more are missing, and yet some insist still on blaming the protestors.

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — I recently heard someone liken the "acts of vandalism" taking place during the current protests against the Colombian government's tax reforms to a child's "tantrum" against its parents.

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WHAT THE WORLD
Alidad Vassigh

After 58 Years On The Run, Man Finds Out He Didn't Kill His Cousin

The Colombian man was located in Brazil, and has spoken by phone to his 95-year-old mother, but still not seen her.

A man who fled Colombia in 1963 thinking he had inadvertently killed his cousin was finally tracked down in Brazil, 58 years after the incident — and told he hadn't killed anyone.

Humberto Botero had fled to Brazil thinking he was responsible for burning his cousin to death: The cousin, Hugo, had spilled fuel on himself while moving a barrel of gasoline, and handed Humberto a match, which he lit. "He gave me a box of matches. I lit one and he went up like a torch," Colombia's Noticias Caracol channel cited Humberto as saying recently.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Juan Camilo Rivera

Child Soldiers In Colombia: Victims Or Killers?

Underage or not, guerillas who continue taking up arms against the state are 'war machines,' the Colombian defense minister recently stated. But what if they were forcibly recruited?

-OpEd-

In late 2019, the Colombian Armed Forces launched an air attack on dissident fighters of the now-disbanded FARC guerrilla army. They bombed a camp in the southern district of San Vicente de Caguán, killing 18 FARC fighters. At least seven of them were minors.

There was uproar in Colombia and the defense minister faced sharp criticism and was forced to resign for hiding the fact that children had been killed. Was it legal, people wanted to know, to bomb a base when it was known that the fighters there included children?

Less than two years later, the country is talking about a similar incident, one that occurred on March 2. The protagonists were the same, with more allegations of the dead including children. The current defense minister, Diego Molano, has defended the attack. He promises that the state prosecution service will determine the exact age of the dead fighters, but adds that the more important point, in any case, is that even if the fighters are underage, they've been turned, by their recruiters, into war machines able to commit terrorist attacks. He said the army had acted in keeping with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

It's true that the IHL does not expressly outlaw military operations where minors are found to be participating directly in hostilities. But nor does it obligate states to carry them out. In that sense, IHL is closer to a restrictive law, though the decision to launch the attack and its justification are neither solely nor principally a juridical matter.

They've been turned, by their recruiters, into war machines.

Some war atrocities repeat themselves, as do the narratives built to explain them. In fact, this debate is closely tied to another that has been present for decades in the Colombian conflict: Can members of illegal armed groups, whether children or not, be considered victims?

Instead, they're usually considered perpetrators of the violations associated with the group to which they belong. Certainly some members of the group are responsible for such violations, as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Commission will help show. But the idea evades the fact that in the Colombian conflict, there were numerous cases of forced recruitment of minors and of sexual violence, among other acts of violence, committed against them.

Nov. 1 protest in front of Bogota's Supreme Court demanding peace accords be respected — Photo: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Various occasions international and national laws have indicated that the same person can, at different times, be both victim and a perpetrator of criminal acts. For example, the Law of Victims ("La Ley de víctimas') stipulated that members of illegal armed groups could only be considered victims if they had demobilized while still underage. The stipulation, which was little debated as the law was processed, was confirmed by the Constitutional Court with the argument that while members of such groups can be victims of human rights or IHL violations, it was legitimate for the state to limit the reparations allocated to them in the law, and it could exclude them payments. That is, these will not receive reparations pursuant to the Victims law though legally speaking, they are considered both victims and perpetrators of IHL violations.

Can members of illegal armed groups, whether children or not, be considered victims?

In spite of this coincidence, victims and perpetrators are frequently spoken of as opposites. This is implied by Defense Minister Molano's comments on children becoming "war machines," though his words go further by dehumanizing the children. From perpetrators, they have become instruments.

This description has its use: It distracts from issues like loss of human lives, the age of the dead, the possibility that they were forced into the conflict or the precarious socio-economic conditions of their families. Being war machines, the military option against them is not just legitimate but inevitable. There is no need to say more on what the state must do to rectify this injustice, beyond blaming — rightfully, it should be said — all those who have dehumanized these children.

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WHAT THE WORLD
Alidad Vassigh

Bogotá Burglars Form Circus-Style Human Ladders To Break In Upstairs

Thieves in Bogotá have been displaying impressive gymnastic prowess by forming human ladders to break into homes. Security footage from one incident shows a seamless, efficient thieving chain as a television is passed out the window to an accomplice below.

This circus-style robbery took place in the district of Usaquén. The understandably stunned homeowner, Daniela Piracón, told Colombian broadcaster RCN that in four minutes, one of the thieves snatched the television and had time to look around "to see what else he could take."

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Green Or Gone
Brigitte LG Baptiste

Climate Migration, A Very Different Global Crisis Is Coming

While the pandemic has restricted people's movement, climate change will increasingly do the opposite as populations move from the worst to less affected zones.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Scientists warn that climate change could trigger a veritable collapse of our civilization in this or the next century. The worst-case scenario currently being put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has temperatures rising 4 degrees Celsius, and sea levels rising 1 meter by 2100.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Julián de Zubiría Samper

Third Way For Parenting: Neither Patriarchy, Nor Kids In Charge

In many ways we've moved beyond outdated parenting models of the past. But the modern parent too often produces 'little tyrants' who wind up as dysfunctional adults.

-Essay-

No Western social institution has changed more over the past 50 years than the family. Just a few years ago, families were profoundly authoritarian, patriarchal and sexist. For centuries, they produced traditional models and perpetuated conservative values. The father imposed his authority and the mother gave her affection. Children, both boys and girls, had to obey.

Everything began to change with the countercultural revolution in the 1960s, and the sexual liberation that came along. Before that, divorce was illegal and entailed social penalties. Those who divorced would face social ostracism. From the 1970s, couples began separating, divorcing and remarrying. Two-thirds of all couples have done it in the United States, and at least a third in Latin America. In Colombia, by 2015, a third of all women aged over 40 years told a poll they had already been married two or more times (DANE's 2015 Encuesta nacional de hogares or National Households Poll).

Today, women's role in society is no longer exclusively tied to procreation. In most European countries, women tend to have their first child after the age of 30 (32.1% in Spain, 31.9% in Italy, among others). Likewise, their entry into university and the labor force has become widespread. Worldwide, 60% of university graduates and 53% of the workforce are women. To this last figure must be added the immense unpaid work that our still patriarchal society has assigned them in the home.

The changes in the structure of families have generated a profound transformation in the exercise of authority.

In 1976, the psychiatrist David Cooper anticipated the death of the family. His prediction did not come true, but families have undoubtedly reinvented themselves. Families made up of a father, mother and children have become the exception. In Colombia, 70% of households have other structures, which is why we should speak of "families' in the plural.

There are elderly households; young people sharing flats; gay couples are increasingly visible and accepted and it is increasingly normal to see people living alone; and childless married couples or those living apart, among other options. In this country, the average number of people per household went from 9.4 in 1966 to 3.1 in 2019, and 38% of these are headed by a woman (DANE Households poll, 2020).

These changes in the structure of families have also generated a profound transformation in the exercise of authority and in children's upbringing. I want to talk about one specific change: the emergence of families where authority no longer centers on the parents and has been transferred to the children. Children have acquired full powers to judge, act and decide at all times and in all circumstances, and this entirely dilutes all limitations and authority at home. They take the important decisions on social meetings, what to wear and where to go, what to do and when they can come home or study, regardless of their age. It is a recent phenomenon and often involves middle or upper-middle class families. Curiously, these remain authoritarian families: only this time, it is the children, not the parents, who hold the reins of this power.

One of the keys to understanding permissive families is that parents' priority and meaning in life is no longer centered primarily on their children. Fathers and mothers have their own ideals that lead them to expand their studies and their own life projects. It is a society that is more oriented to work than to the family nucleus.

Permissive parents dedicate little time to their children and, to remedy this weakness, allow them to do whatever they want. They try to compensate for the lack of affection and communication with gifts, freedom of choice and absence of limits.

Ultimately, the permissive parent's goal is for their child "to be happy." They consider themselves to be friends of their children. But they do not realize that in winning a friend, their children are losing the mother or father they need. These children learn early on that their parents suffer when they throw a tantrum in public, and recognize this as an effective strategy to impose their will. With manipulation and tantrums, they get whatever they want.

Their parents seem to be unaware they are breeding little tyrants who bite, abuse and insult and impose their will through emotional blackmail. In time, they may come to reproach their parents for not abiding by their own "free" rules, and subject them to emotional abuse. It is very common for them to abandon or mistreat their parents psychologically and emotionally. In any case, the consequences of authoritarianism are reproduced, but now exercised from the children towards the parents.

Children of permissive parents are easily spotted at schools because these children tend to be rejected by their peers. They never learned to listen, to dialogue or to reach agreement. Their parents have not taught them about co-existence, about asking to speak, sharing toys or respecting rules. They are kings at home, where they are overvalued. They are often the only child, and, if not, they act as if they were.

Nor do such children — being needy, whimsical and disrespectful of norms — arouse much sympathy among their teachers. Hard work and perseverance are not their forte. Colombia's ICFES, a state body that evaluates schools, has found them to underperform in studies. It is not surprising, as education is a process that requires grit and hard work in grappling with ideas, both old and new.

Excessively authoritarian or permissive upbringings will not forge the citizens we need to live in a better society.

Authoritarian parents create melancholic children who are obedient and weak of character. Permissive parents produce overconfident children who are insensitive, and hard pushed to empathize with others. The former overvalue discipline and authority, and the latter underestimate the need for limits. There is too much control in authoritarian homes, while limits are absent in permissive ones. Both ignore Plato's recommendation to avoid two excesses in educating the young: too much severity, and overindulgence.

Democratic families do things together, talk among themselves and support members. Authority, however, necessarily rests with elder members. Similarly, democratic governments respect the independence of powers, promote participation and freedom of press and opinion, but it is clear that they have to make decisions that, with some frequency, do not satisfy everyone, although they always seek the benefit of the majority.

The conclusion is clear: Excessively authoritarian or permissive upbringings will not forge the citizens we need to live in a better society. Winston Churchill may have been right to see democracy as the worst form of government "except for all those other forms." I would add, the same may be said of families. Ultimately, the citizens of tomorrow will be formed in our own households.

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