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Bogotan Officials Don’t Let a World Cup Crisis Go to Waste

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Jul 9, 2014, 11:20 am

EspañolWhile the Colombian national football team played remarkably well at the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Bogotá’s local government officials, led by Mayor Gustavo Petro, seized the opportunity to do what they do best: restrict citizens’ freedoms.

Granted, these officials did face serious concerns that compelled serious measures. For example, during the first game of the World Cup, Colombia beat Greece. Afterwards, as people were out celebrating, many people wounded and there were even a few consequent deaths in Bogotá.

Fans celebrate Colombia's game against Uruguay
Fans celebrate Colombia’s game against Uruguay. (Flickr)

However, not until a week later did those in local government decide to take action. The day before Colombia’s second World Cup game, given an ill-prepared mayor and an inept local police force, young delinquents attacked the city’s public facilities, with the supposed excuse that they were celebrating their local team.

How did the local government respond? It wasn’t with more police officers out on the streets; nor did they search for the delinquents. No. That is too much to ask from the “progressive” government of Bogotá.

What they decided to do instead was to establish dry law, restricting alcohol consumption whenever Colombia is playing. They also decided to prohibit the use of flour and sprayed foam when people are out celebrating. According to their logic, anyone affected by it can respond violently, and this could cause further deaths.

Apart from a few critics, people have in general responded positively to the measures taken by the local government. For them, the most important thing is to avoid deaths at all costs. The Colombian society appears to be described by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America: “A nation that asks nothing of its government but the maintenance of order is already a slave at heart, the slave of its own well-being, awaiting only the hand that will bind it” (Second Edition, Section Two, Chapter 14).

The majority of the intellectuals and local public officials have also preferred to ignore what experts had to say in opposition to these actions. They ignored the data presented, and even the local police’s claims that contradicted the mayor’s statements.

They did not consider that these measures divert the police from performing their core duties. Instead of murder and kidnapping prevention, the police forces had to search every store, to check how much and what type of alcohol they were selling. In addition, they walked around and confiscated flour and foam, even if people had bought these items for other reasons.

What began as the local government’s incapacity to establish solid security policies has turned into the people having to perform the government’s duties. Not only have local government officials decided to impose their functions on us, they are doing so without any demonstration that these measures work. Correlation does not mean causation: that there are deaths when there are celebrations does not mean the consumption of alcohol, let alone flour and foam, is to blame.

The fact that Mayor Pedro can make these decisions lightly, and for them to be approved just as easily by society and intellectuals, has very profound consequences. This is due to the fact that society has lost its individualistic senses, and has replaced it with collectivist, even totalitarian, inclinations. They come packaged as a “collectivist spirit,” or even when worse, as “culture.”

Apparently, those who hurt or murder others are not specific individuals. Rather, “Colombians do not know how to celebrate” and “form a violent society.” These collectivists blame all for what a few individual culprits have done. This allows the local government to continue to be mediocre — they do not perform their duties, and they don’t even try to punish the guilty — and allows for others to continue to strengthen the government’s dominant position.

As referenced, the so-called intellectuals continue to judge and blame “society,” and they even defend everything the government has prohibited. They may not realize, but they are directing the blame at themselves: they too consume alcohol, but are not murderers. Deep down, their actions are a reflection of the scorn they feel for those whom they see as inferior: those who also get drunk, but do not deserve to live in freedom.

Consequently, they support measures that sacrifice basic principles, all for superficial results. Thus, the government is no longer fulfilling its designated functions. Rather, those in office have decided to tell citizens what to do and how to act, as if they were our parents. How arrogant!

Translated by Anneke Ball.

Javier Garay Javier Garay

Javier Garay is a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. He has written two books on international issues, such as development, after his doctoral dissertation focused on the same topic. Follow him on Twitter @crittiko and through his personal blog, Crittiko.