Colombia (MNN) — On Friday, officials bulldozed a mansion belonging to the man who put Colombia on the map for drug trafficking: Pablo Escobar. It’s part of an ongoing effort to “clean up” the reputation of Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city and Escobar’s base of operations.
Encyclopedia Britannica describes Escobar as “the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher, [who] began his life of crime while still a teenager. According to some reports, his first illegal scheme was selling fake diplomas.” He grew up to become one of the world’s wealthiest men, and immersed Colombia in drug trafficking and bloodshed during the 80s and early 90s.
Even though Colombia’s murder rate is now at an all-time low, it’s still one of the worst in the world. It also produces roughly half of the cocaine consumed by people worldwide. As such, one might assume that most people in Colombia’s overflowing prisons are drug traffickers or the perpetrators of violent crimes.
However, Hans Daza Bolaños – director of Crossroad Prison Ministries’ work in Colombia – says that’s not the case.
With the aid of an interpreter, Bolaños says there’s more to Colombia than what headlines – or the hit Netflix show Narcos – portray.
“Even though Colombia is considered a narcotics country, we also have the best coffee in the world!” he exclaims. “That characterizes us more than the fact that we have a lot of drug trade going on within our country.
“The good people here are much more than those who would do harm.”
If drug trafficking isn’t the crime that fills Colombia’s prisons to overflowing, what is?
“Whereas some people are in jail because of the drug trade, the majority of our prisoners are not there because of the drug trade at all,” says Bolaños.
Guards organize the prisons into sections, he explains. There’s a section for people accused of sexual crimes, and another for those who committed acts of domestic abuse or violence. A third section holds people who’ve been arrested for theft or other petty crimes.
Oftentimes, the people arrested for drug trafficking are foreigners, Bolaños notes. According to Colombia Reports, cocaine consumption is largely driven by the United States and Europe.
“The problem really isn’t Colombia; the problem is that there’s a demand from people of other countries.”
Additionally, “we…have a lot of people in our jails who are actually innocent… and others are there because of the political and social context in which we live.”
Now that you know, use this information to fuel your prayers for Colombia. Pray for an end to Colombia’s violence. Ask God to intercede on behalf of people who are falsely imprisoned. Pray for a revelation of Christ’s mercy among prisoners studying Crossroads’ Bible-based curriculum.
Crossroads Prison Ministry began working in Bogotá, Colombia 13 years ago. Leadership of the ministry recently transitioned from former director Antonio Prieto Surmay to Bolaños. Learn more here.
Tomorrow, Bolaños will share what happens when they introduce inmates to the hope of Christ.
Header image obtained from Wikimedia Commons.