Colombia's reputation needs more help from Canada

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Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia, was also once know as the most dangerous city in the world (Screenshot via YouTube)

Colombia's tarnished reputation has benefited from a trade agreement with Canada, but it's still not quite enough, writes Gabriel Opare.

COLOMBIA HAS BEEN PORTRAYED in cinematography as a haven for cartels and drug violence — deservedly so. The country has a long history of accommodating violence from domestic assaults to murder and kidnapping. 

Whether it be the unlawful cultivation of copious amounts of coca, street shootings, the kidnapping of tourists or the assassination of social leaders, Colombia perhaps has the most consistent track record of failure in containing these.

Colombia has a reputation for being a dangerous Andean country and cities like Medellín and Cali have made it among the list of the most terrible and violent in the world. Violence was once hardwired into the nation's DNA after a series of historical episodes that brought the Colombian Government's loose grip on the reigns of power, the territorial interests of street gangs, the economic hustle of drug cartels and the “nationalistic” efforts of guerillas and militant groups into a giant pot bowl of intolerance.

Today, homicide rates have been truncated and Colombia is relatively safer than certain cities in Mexico or America, but that image of reckless gangs running amok without the effectual containment by the state and law enforcement is still a scary thought that scars the country's public image. Suffice it to say, the reputation is made and Elvis has left the building.

Canada and Colombia's economic relationship through the Free Trade Agreement implemented in August 2011 is a powerful eraser tool for scrubbing the dubious reputation Colombia has garnered for itself. By aligning with a peaceful and progressive country like Canada, it should hope to redo that reputation and clean out any doubts about the newfound stability of the land. Already, the FTA has experienced a satisfactory success with two-way merchandise trade reaching upwards of a billion dollars in value and Canada perpetuating good foreign investment schemes in Colombia.

By natural reason of deduction, the peace accord signed in 2016 was to be a harbinger of good things to come for Colombia but the reality is in stark contrast. Since the 2016 peace deal, as personified by the recent 26 June Walk for Life and Peace, over 700 social leaders and activists have been murdered, muzzling efforts to contain violence in the region.

Carried out in about 180 cities around the world through a massively staged rally, Canadian cities like Montreal and Ottawa joined in for the Walk for Life and Peace, deepening the fraternal connections between the two countries. But rallies are great for remembering the dead and getting seen — who is going to get to work actually fixing Colombia?

It isn’t enough to sign a free trade agreement that ensures the convenient trade relationship between the two countries of Canada and Colombia. Canada must get to work assisting Colombia to make its trade regions peaceful enough to encourage an even bigger explosion in social and economic ties. The two countries need to join forces to combat the inactivity of sanity and restore their images as symbols of democratic governances, freedom and security, especially Colombia who is in dire need of national rebranding.

Gabriel Opare is Ghanaian writer and poet. He is interested in the clash of cultures, particularly between the first and third worlds. You can follow him on Twitter @gabriel_opare_

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Colombia's reputation needs more help from Canada

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