Colombians are sensitive about the whole drug conversation. Colombia is the largest producer of cocaine in the world, and for some reason, very often we are at the center of drug jokes. To be frank, we don’t like it. In general, there’s a big misconception around the world of what drugs mean in Colombia.
In the US and Europe, where the consumers are, cocaine is synonym of endless hysterical wild parties that ended 3 days later when a XVII century pianist dressed as a playboy bunny confused the door handle with the fire alarm.
For us Colombians, drugs are the thing that fuels violence, the stuff people sell so that some can afford to perpetuate and foment all the social problems in the country.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that in Colombia everyone has been directly affected by the drug trade in some way or another. Our family reunions are full of stories about Jesus and saints and about the old drunk great grandparent that lost the family’s wealth in a hand of cards. Also, there is ALWAYS a story related to the drug issue. To the extent that production, transportation and delivery are the areas in the drug story played by Colombians, you can just begin to imagine the level of tragedy, and also comedy, of some of these stories. I dare you to take your mind to places you never thought were related to drugs: like hand-made submarines and talking your way out of deportation using your knowledge about Mexican soap operas.
Personally, I have found myself in many awkward and truly compromising situations thanks to all the Colombians that do run the cocaine trade. I have relatives that have struggled terribly cleaning their past faulty legal records and relatives that struggle every day to sell their agricultural produce because agricultural prices are artificially kept down by money laundry operations. But to be honest, I’ve had a pretty tough week and don’t feel like lecturing much on the political correctness, or rather the lack of it, in the drug jokes made about Colombians. Instead, I am going to share a very colorful little story about a type of Colombian drug that got incinerated by Canadian customs officials three years ago.
I have relatives that fled Colombia in the late 90’s trying to make a better future for themselves in a progressive and advanced economy, the socialist nation of Canada. Today, I have the privilege to have in my family a Canadian uncle, a Canadian aunt and two young Canadian cousins. As good citizens of a socialist country, my relatives did what other socialist Canadians do for holidays. They fled the winter lands and went on a holiday vacation to Cuba.
In Cuba, like in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, they call drinking water what really should be called DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER. Long story short, the entire family gets infected with some widespread parasite and immediately experiences what is commonly known as acute diarrhea. Of course, there is no doctor to be found in Cuba and the family has a very difficult time finding a pay phone or an internet café to make contact with their medical insurer. Finally, they are able to access the internet and they get in touch my father, who is a family physician and is very well versed in the diagnosis and treatment of third-world infections and diseases. My father tells them to buy a medicine that will help them temporarily with dehydration but urges them to visit the doctor as soon as they are back in Canada.
Back in Canada, oh Canada, the socialist country with public health care, my uncle, aunt and cousins are unable to receive any medical treatment. All due to the red-tape involved in the delivery of any service that comes to you at the convenient price of zero. So, the family makes multiple attempts at seeing a Canadian doctor, only to be rejected, every time, by a Canadian nurse that is unfamiliar with this terribly common tropical infection and who only prescribes test after test after test.
Five or six weeks have past and the family has lost a lot of their weight in… well, poop. They still have not been able to see a doctor. When you are a 2-year or a 4-year old, you can’t afford to lose much weight. So, things are getting complicated.
My father has been continuously skyping with my uncle to monitor the evolution of the disease. Enough is enough, he says. We are going to save the Canadians from their socialist system. But because it is Canada who we are dealing with, we are going to do so playing by the book, not Colombian style.
Parasite drugs used to treat acute diarrhea can be bought over the counter in Colombia. Of course, in Canada you need a prescription. So my father buys the doses required to treat the entire family for a total cost of $25 and he proceeds to write a prescription for the drugs. The prescription is in English, Spanish and French. He puts the medicines in a package together with receipts from the purchase and sends the package through priority international mail.
Because it is Colombia where we are sending the package from, we track it religiously. Just overnight, it reaches the US. Shortly after, it makes its way to Calgary. Then it is sent to Edmonton, the last large customs office before it is sent to its final destination in the North West Territories. The package stays in Edmonton for 1, 2, 3… 5, 6 days. The family is hanging by the edge of the seat and the Canadians keep losing weight to a simple diarrheal infection.
A week or more after the package is sent, my uncle receives an very important call from the customs official in Edmonton. Really, the last call you want to receive if you are a Colombian immigrant. Is your name such and such? Are you Colombian of origin? Are you a Canadian citizen? Where you in Cuba recently? Are you aware we are holding a package of yours? Why are you getting drugs delivered to you from Colombia?
My uncle has nothing to hide and he explains the situation as it is.
Your answers are unsatisfactory, we will proceed to incinerate the package.
That’s how another package of legitimate Colombian goods didn’t make it to its destination. How drug dealers trashed the credibility of an entire country, how a socialist health system failed its citizens and how the socialist Cuban water sanitation system killed 4 Canadians. Just kidding, they didn’t die.