South America | Colombia

Cartagena / Police Negotiations

haggling over fines for non-existent crimes & how to break the corruption cycle

   „And what about the camera?“ he asked, pointing to it with his head.

“I’m not giving you my camera!” I answered decidedly. “It’s worth a lot more than the fine.”

That was a lie. Somehow amused and yet outraged I took another sip from my beer and thought to myself that these police were driving a hard bargain. He continued: “If you cannot pay the fine, we’ll have to get your passports and you spend the night in jail. Tomorrow we bring you to Bogotá and then deport you.”

An hour earlier:


It was Cartagena’s birthday. I don’t remember which one, just that it was an odd number, something like 457, rendering the big celebration in the streets oddly inadequate. The city had made its pretty eyes at me for the last couple of days and I was falling for it: Caribbean ocean front, Colombian joie de vivre, yesterday’s old town, tomorrow’s skyline, arepas – what was not to like?

That night everybody wanted to go out – the Germans, that Norwegian couple, and the Brits I had met in Bogotá. But I got held up in some other plot, a ghost from home on the phone, and, by the time I hung up, only the Norwegian guy was still around.

We had some beers in front of the wall that encloses the old town. The party was in full swing, but our participation in it was rather moderate. All was well. Chilled. So chilled in fact that my companion suggested to smoke some weed. That’s where it all started, where “chilled” went up in smoke, without us actually smoking any.