When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Letter To The Pope: Why You Shouldn't Visit Colombia

You might as well turn around and walk away
You might as well turn around and walk away
Sergio Ocampo Madrid


BOGOTÁFather Jorge, dear Pope Francis, less than a month remains before your visit to Colombia. Before Sept. 6, you still have time to make your excuses and cancel. Believe me, you really needn't expose yourself to a trip that wil inevitably be both a failure and a risk. Colombia is irredeemable. We are condemned to a 1000, not 100 years of solitude. Leave us be and let us wallow in our rottenness and idiocy.

I am a Colombian who stopped being a Catholic a good while back but I believe you to be a good man. I became certain of it when you visited Mexico last year, and markedly showed your contempt for its Primate, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who had been covering up for pedophiles for a good 21 years, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful and cloaking the murky Legionaries of Christ in a veil of respectability. Although I am broadly indifferent to the person who sits on Saint Peter's throne, I was still glad to see it occupied by a man from this great homeland of ours, Latin America, and by someone who speaks Spanish. They say you prefer your little Fiat to limousines and that you do not live in the pomp and luxury of your predecessors. Good for you. You inspire trust.

Which is why I would ask you, Jorge Bergoglio, not to come to Colombia. Save yourself the disappointment of witnessing the Church's resounding failure here and its inability, in spite of the hegemonic powers it wielded until 1991, to forge us into a kinder, less barbaric and deceitful nation. As it declined and gradually lost credibility in recent decades, your Church has been ceding ground to horrible Protestant options like those shameless faith peddlers Miguel Arrázola or María Luisa Piraquive.

Leave us be and let us wallow in our rottenness and idiocy.

In our country, Holy Father, the Medellín gunmen hired to kill have faith in Mary Help of Christians. And she seems to listen, since most of the time they hit their targets. And nothing happens to them afterward. In the northern city of Barranquilla, the day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an orgy of drinking and disorders that ends in scuffles and stabbings. We had priests here who would preach from their altars that there was no sin in killing liberals. They put presidents into office and blessed weapons at the Military School, not to mention the vaults of the central bank.

Less than a year ago, a plebiscite was held to ask people whether or not they wanted peace. Your Church went against your declarations of enthusiasm, from Rome, and your dignitaries thought it better to wash their hands off of the affair — hypocritically, like Pontius Pilate — and issue a statement counseling people to vote according to their conscience. It was an insidious way of urging people to vote No. And sure enough, rancor won that day. War won.

You will have to try hard to avoid greeting such shady personalities as the presidential aspirant Alejandro Ordóñez, an arch-reactionary who burned books and, as head of the public prosecutor's office, had opposed anti-discrimination legislation for gays. He was also against the law to return to peasants the land that had been stolen from them in the war years. He prays to the rosary every day.

Another crazy old man with a rosary here considers you a false pope and a hidden antichrist. The thing is, he is a teacher and runs one of the capital's universities.

We have created such monsters as the late drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the now-deceased guerrilla supremo Manuel Marulanda, our former president Álvaro Uribe, and the Castaño boys who were paramilitary gunmen — and baptized Catholics. The worst of it, Father Jorge, is that many of these men think they were decent and respectable. They think they did the right thing. There's one they call Popeye who killed more than 3,000 people. Those victims were slaughtered by his own hand and doesn't include the 3,000 others whose deaths he's conspired in. When you go to Medellín, should you visit at all, he may be in the crowd. Yes, Holiness, he has been free for a while now and may even be called an "influencer" as he has 34,000 followers on Twitter. He is a devout Catholic.

We were bad from the start, Holiness. About a month ago, the anti-corruption prosecutor, Luis Moreno, was detained for corruption. Yes sir, the same one meant to investigate and charge the country's crooks. Six years ago, his now wife was held at the airport before she was to board a flight to Paris. She had been found with drugs but he got her off the hook arguing that her "grandmother had packed her suitcase." Regarding the grandmother: she died before this lady was tried in court. Yes Father, you can't even trust your grandma in Colombia!

There is no need to come and see for yourself ... the antechamber of hell.

Moreno may well be freed or placed under house arrest due to the statute of limitations. In our country, Holiness, it is not unusual for people to illicitly acquire millions of dollars — like the Nule cousins who handled illegal sales of public contracts in Bogotá — and only be placed under house arrest. One of the Nule convicts, Miguel, was given the light punishment because, according to court documents, he was "intolerant to carbohydrates' and could therefore not digest prison food.

If you ignore me and decide to visit Colombia, do ask for Marbelly Sofia Jiménez in Villavicencio. She's the woman who was dealt a 39-year prison term for murdering her stepson, among other crimes. She was not immediately jailed after her conviction, which allowed her to throw house parties so loud nobody could sleep nearby. She visited bars and apparently even traveled to the Caribbean. She is confined now but I would not be surprised to see her sentence reduced so she, too, can return home because of an ingrown toenail.

That is how we are, dear Pope Francis. There is no need to come and see for yourself how a country of 50 million souls is the antechamber of hell. And without redemption in our case, for we barely deserve it.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


How Russia And China Are Trying To Drive France Out Of Africa

Fueled by the Kremlin, anti-French sentiment in Africa has been spreading for years. Meanwhile, China is also increasing its influence on the continent as Africa's focus shifts from west to east.

Photo of a helicopter landing, guided a member of France's ​Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region

Maneuver by members of France's Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region

Maria Oleksa Yeschenko

France is losing influence in its former colonies in Africa. After French President Emmanuel Macron decided last year to withdraw the military from the Sahel and the Central African Republic, a line was drawn under the "old French policy" on the continent. But the decision to withdraw was not solely a Parisian initiative.

October 23-24, 2019, Sochi. Russia holds the first large-scale Russia-Africa summit with the participation of four dozen African heads of state. At the time, French soldiers are still helping Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad, and Niger fight terrorism as part of Operation Barkhane.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Few people have heard of the Wagner group. The government of Mali is led by Paris-friendly Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, although the country has already seen several pro-Russian demonstrations. At that time, Moscow was preparing a big return to the African continent, similar to what happened in the 1960s during the Soviet Union.

So what did France miss, and where did it all go wrong?

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest