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Entries in Colombia (19)

Wednesday
Mar272013

Colombian Company Selling Bulletproof Backpacks

ABC News(AURORA, Colo.) -- It was an ordinary school day for Demitric Boykin and his 4-year-old daughter, Jaliyah.

Ordinary, except for her brand-new backpack.

Despite the girly pink fabric and pretty fairies that adorned it, Jaliyah's backpack offered military-grade protection. It could literally stop bullets.

"It protects me," she said.

On the morning before Jaliyah took her bulletproof backpack to school for the first time, her father, over a bowl of Fruit Loops, had some grown-up explaining to do.

"So if any bad guy was to come in to your classroom, remember we don't use guns, right, but bad guys do, right? So if they were to come in to your classroom with any guns, you put this on and this would stop the bullets," Boykin told his daughter.

While outfitting a kindergartener with body armor may seem way over the top, Boykin said it just reflects "the world we live in."

"[It's] sad in a lot of ways," he said. "We shouldn't have to do these things. But in today's society, if we don't, who knows what tomorrow will look like."

Boykin is among a wave of parents willing to try the extreme and controversial measure of making his children wear bulletproof materials to protect them at school in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., and other school shootings.

However, gun control advocates see this as a disturbing sign of how willing we have become to accept gun violence as the norm.

"We can accept that when our children go to school, they should be under the same type of threat of active combat as law enforcement and soldiers, or we can make sure that the shooting never starts in the first place by making sure that our gun laws are so strong that people who are homicidal maniacs cannot gain easy access to firearms," said Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Boykin said it is the reality his family is facing firsthand. They live in Aurora, Colo., the site of the movie theater shooting last July that left 12 people dead and 58 injured. He said he used to bring his daughter to that theater regularly and knew people who were inside on the night of the shooting.

"It was the worst day of my life," he said. "I didn't know who was alive and who was dead. I haven't let Jaliyah out of my sight since."

It is that anxiety that has led to an emerging market for something most Americans would have never thought necessary: bulletproof clothing -- from jackets to shirts to backpacks -- made for children.

"I think that there are other ways to protect your child. I just felt like this was the best thing for mine," Boykin said. "It felt like this was the easiest thing that I could do to keep my arm around her when I couldn't keep my arm around her."

Tapping into that urge -- and some critics would say exploiting it -- is a man named Miguel Caballero. His company, based in Bogota, Colombia, designed and manufactured the 3-pound bulletproof backpack Jaliyah now carries to school.

"We are the last resort," Caballero said. "In the moment when all the rest, they are not working, we have the best way to guarantee the life of the child."

Caballero has been making bulletproof products for 20 years. An industry leader in a country plagued by decades of violence, Caballero says he ships to 23 countries around the world and counts 11 sitting presidents, and even actor Steven Seagal, among his clientele.

Caballero is so convinced his product works, he has a longstanding, if not bizarre, tradition at the factory for new employees: Fire bullets at them while they wear his products.

Today, his 260 employees are hard at work making bulletproof gear for the American Red Cross, the Paraguayan police and, now, American children -- the company's newest clients.

Caballero said the idea came to him on the fateful day three months ago when 20 first graders were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Within days of the shooting, Caballero said he started receiving requests from anxious American parents.

"All the emails from parents say, 'I am afraid to send my child to the school,'" he said.

He bristled at the suggestion that he is exploiting parents' fear.

"I am in the business of personal defense," Caballero said. "I am not the aggressor. I am not the attack people. I only want to supply any solution in the United States."

But gun control advocates say that is ridiculous and companies like Caballero's are taking advantage of parents' panic over their children's safety to turn a profit.

Everitt said companies like Caballero's are part of the problem, not the solution.

"They have a profit motive," he said. "They're businessmen. The goal of a businessman is not to enact laws to ensure public safety."

Everitt, who is also a parent, was skeptical of how effective the backpack would be.

"Are they going to be wearing a bulletproof helmet, as well? Are they going to be covered from head to toe?" he asked. "If a guy walks in there and unloads more than 150 rounds in less than five minutes, how many kids are going to be saved by bulletproof clothing in that instance?"

Caballero insisted his products speak for themselves. To demonstrate, he fired eight shots from a 9mm handgun straight into one of his backpacks.

"So, you can see, no penetration," he said.

Caballero would not reveal the secrets of the backpack's technology, but he said the key is a special gel that absorbs the impact of the bullet and disperses the energy.

The National Institute of Justice, the American government agency that certifies bulletproof clothing, said Caballero's material passed bulletproof testing. His first shipment of 150 units was on its way to the U.S. just last month. Last week, the line officially launched here.

But Everitt said these products show we are losing sight of the real issue of gun control in America, and any parents considering putting their kids in body armor to go to school should ask themselves if they want their children to live in a country full of fear of being attacked.

"Does that sound like a vision of America, or does that sound like a third-world country?" Everitt said. "This is insane."

But for Boykin, that threat already exist,s and he wants to take action against it. The early reviews from Jaliyah on her new bulletproof backpack were mixed.

"It's tight, it's heavy and slow," she said, but she noted that she liked "the hearts, stars and fairies" that adorned it.

Now that Jalyiah can potentially protect herself with the backpack, her father said they might start going to the movies again.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar022013

Colombian Tailor Chosen to Make Garments for New Pope

Univision/ABC News(CALI, Colombia) -- Immediately after the world learned of Pope Benedict's resignation, a tailor in Colombia got a call from the Vatican to start working on garments for the new pope. That man is Luis Delgado, a 43-year-old tailor from Cali who was chosen to embroider some of the most delicate garments for the new pope.

Delgado got the fabric and materials straight from Rome-- enough to make three different sets, a small, medium and large, so that depending on the new pope's size, last minute alterations can be made on the spot.

Delgado is no stranger to the Vatican. He has also sewn for Pope John Paul II and for the past five years had regularly made garments for Pope Benedict XVI.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar012013

Colombian Coffee Growers Go On Strike

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MEDELLIN, Colombia) -- While you brew your morning cup of coffee, trouble is brewing in Colombia among the country’s coffee growers.

In response to falling international prices and the lowest crop in decades, thousands of coffee growers went on strike and protested in the streets, demanding higher subsidies.

Coffee is the second most valuable traded commodity in the world after petroleum, and Colombia is the fourth largest producer. The crop is one of the nation’s biggest exports.

Protesters blocked streets and came into conflict with police in several cities and towns, who would not allow the roadblocks.

But President Juan Manuel Santos says his government already pays growers subsidies of 60,000 pesos equivalent to 33 dollars for every 275 pounds of coffee.

"The strike is not only inconvenient and unnecessary but also unjust," he said in a speech broadcast on radio and TV.

Santos has said he will consider extending the benefit created last July.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep302012

Colombia Hit by 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake

Zoonar/Thinkstock(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- A 7.1 magnitude earrthquake struck the Colombian town of La Vega, about 50 miles north of Bogota shortly before noon on Sunday.

The quake, which was 93.5 miles deep, hit the town at 11:31 a.m. local time.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in the city.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep192012

Last Colombian Drug Kingpin Falls: 'Crazy' Barrera Captured

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The last of the old-school Colombian drug lords has been captured in Venezuela, said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a televised speech on Tuesday. Daniel Barrera, also known as "Crazy Barrerra" or "The Madman," had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

"Crazy Barrera has been perhaps the most wanted kingpin in recent times," Santos said.

The 50-year-old drug lord, who has allegedly smuggled cocaine to the U.S. for decades, was arrested while making a call on a public pay phone in San Cristobal, near the Colombian-Venezuelan border. The highly sought-after trafficker had undergone extensive plastic surgery in an attempt to alter his appearance and evade capture, according to authorities, and had allegedly also used acid to remove his fingerprints.

The U.S. had offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest, while the Colombian government offered $2.7 million of its own.

The arrest of one of Colombia's most wanted fugitives was the result of a multinational effort involving the C.I.A., Venezuelan drug police, and British intelligence officials, according to Santos.

Venezuela's justice minister, Tareck El Aissami, tweeted that the bust was "the most important blow" to drug trafficking "that we have made in Venezuela."

"Loco" Barrera was allegedly responsible for a gang capable of sending 10 tons of cocaine a month to the organized Mexican "Sinaloa" cartel, according to the Colombian government. The Sinaloa cartel would then allegedly move the cocaine to the U.S.

"The last of the great capos has fallen," said President Santos in announcing the capture. Barrera was able to escape from authorities, however, after he was arrested for trafficking in 1990.

"The madman" had allegedly retired to a quieter life, and since 2008 had been posing as a cattle rancher under the name of Jose Tomas Lucumi in Venezuela, said Colombia's National Police director Gen. Jose Roberto Leon, at a news conference in Washington.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep042012

‘Godmother of Cocaine’ Gunned Down in Colombia: Reports

Florida Department of Corrections(WASHINGTON) -- A 69-year-old woman known throughout the drug world as the “Godmother of Cocaine” was gunned down by an assassin on a motorcycle in Colombia Monday, according to international news reports.

Griselda Blanco, once listed alongside Pablo Escobar as one of the “most notorious drug lords of the 1980s” by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was fatally shot as she left a butcher’s shop in western Medellin Monday afternoon, according to a report by Univision and El Colombiano. Colombia’s El Espectador reported authorities are looking for Blanco’s killers and are investigating possible motives for the killing.

Blanco served nearly 20 years in an American prison on drug trafficking charges and was at one point tied to as many as 40 murders in the U.S., according to a 1997 Senate testimony given by then-director of DEA international operations Michael Horn. Horn said that Blanco ordered a Florida mall shooting in 1979 that left two dead and four injured, and she apparently enjoyed her line of work.

“To foster her reputation as the ‘Godmother’ of cocaine, [Blanco] named her fourth son Michael Corleone, after the fictional mob character portrayed in the movie The Godfather,” Horn said.

Court documents filed in 1988, three years after Blanco was caught, detail the shadowy, decade-long hunt for the queenpin that involved federal agents chasing false identities and checking Miami hospitals for gunshot wound victims that matched Blanco’s description. But she wasn’t able to elude them forever and after being captured in 1985 in Irvin, Calif. and serving nearly two decades behind bars in America, Blanco was released from prison and deported back to Colombia in 2004.

The DEA referred all inquiries into Blanco’s death to Colombian authorities, telling ABC News, “she served her time here.” The Colombian National Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug102012

Alleged Drug 'Queenpin' Extradited from Mexico, Appears in Florida Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- The alleged "queenpin" of Mexico's West Coast drug trade, once celebrated in song as the "Queen of the Pacific," appeared in a U.S. courtroom Friday to face drug trafficking charges after being extradited from Mexico City to Miami.

Sandra Avila Beltran, who allegedly once controlled cocaine traffic from Colombia via Mexico to the U.S. Pacific Coast, had been held by Mexican authorities since she was pulled over and arrested in her BMW in 2007.

She was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2004 on two counts of cocaine trafficking. She had fought extradition while in Mexican custody, but arrived in Florida earlier Friday and appeared in court that afternoon to hear the charges read. She is scheduled to be arraigned next Tuesday.

Until her arrest Beltran, the niece of a notorious organized crime figure, allegedly reigned over a profitable business from her Mexico City apartment for years, while also having affairs with Colombian and Mexican drug kingpins. Her personal relationships, her sex appeal and her business savvy allegedly helped her control the cocaine conduit from Colombia. She was arrested soon after Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drugs.

Beltran was lauded as the "Queen" in a "narcocorrido" -- a drug ballad -- by the group Los Tucanes de Tijuana. The song describes how "La Reina del Pacifico" lands at a luxe party in the mountains in a helicopter: "The boss ordered everyone to hold their fire. Out came a beautiful lady, dressed in camo and [carrying] and [AK-47]. ... She was the famous Queen of the Pacific and its shores, the strong lady of the business, a true heavyweight. "

Beltran was also reportedly the inspiration for a 2004 novel called "The Queen of the South," about an enterprising Mexican woman who rises from drug smuggler's girlfriend to queen of her own empire.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May042012

Secret Service Escort Says US Agents 'Showed No Respect'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- One of the Colombian escorts at the center of the Secret Service scandal emerged from hiding Friday, recounting in detail her night in Cartagena with a member of President Obama's protective detail, saying she fears for her safety.

Dania Suarez, a 24-year-old dark-haired beauty, appeared on a televised Colombian radio call-in program Friday morning, telling callers the agent was "heavily intoxicated" and everything in his luggage and his papers was left open in his room and could have been easily stolen.

Asked if she had been a spy could she have removed the papers, Suarez said, "Absolutely, absolutely."

Suarez says she met the agent at a disco where they danced and she began to rub her hands over his body.

"He was a very clumsy dancer," she said of the agent, identified in published accounts elsewhere as Arthur Huntington, who has left the Secret Service under circumstances that are unclear.

She said that Huntington did not appear to be searching for a prostitute but that "I found him."

Suarez said Huntington fell asleep when they returned to his room and refused to answer the question of whether they actually had sex.

"If I answer this you will know what happened," she said.

Suarez said the agent "did not feel he got what he was being asked to pay for" and that this led to dispute over how much he owed her at the end of the evening.

She said she does not consider herself a prostitute, but an escort because prostitutes "are lower class and live in brothels."

She confirmed other accounts that the agent offered her $30, which led to a confrontation at the agent's door and drew the attention of the hotel manager and local police.

She said the agents pleaded, "Please, please, no police, no police."

Suarez said she left Colombia for a few days because of concerns her life could be in danger and has had no contact with any American official.

"Maybe they are just as dumb as the Secret Service agents," she told the station.

Throughout her appearance this morning, dressed in a skimpy green blouse, Suarez laughed and smiled even as the host reminded her of the seriousness of the scandal.

"This is who I am and all I really care about is my mother and my young son," Suarez said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Colombian Prostitutes Are Interviewed by Investigators

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- Some of the prostitutes who allegedly met with Secret Service agents in Colombia have been interviewed by investigators, but U.S. officials are still searching for others, ABC News has learned.

So far, one Secret Service supervisor implicated in the case has retired, and a lower-level official is resigning. The Secret Service is trying to fire one supervisor, but he is expected to appeal the removal.

The investigation is going full tilt, with the eight remaining Secret Service officials facing lie detector tests. More resignations are expected in the coming days as the probe goes forward, according to congressional leaders.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that the investigation is "moving with some speed," but he wouldn't say when it is expected to be done.

President Obama is getting regular updates, but he hasn't spoken recently with the Secret Service director, Carney said.

Carney said no staff members involved with the White House West Wing or the president's office were involved.

Meanwhile, the Colombian prostitute who sparked a fight with Secret Service agents that led to the scandal now has a more public identity. The New York Daily News Thursday published four photos of a 24-year-old mother who the paper said is the escort.

The night that the agents met the prostitutes, Secret Service officials booked a party space at a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, before going out to nightclubs, ABC News reported Thursday. The men drank whiskey at a brothel, bragged about working for Obama, and brought women from the club back to their hotel after picking up more escorts, sources said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr162012

Obama Says US-Colombia Free Trade Deal a Win-Win

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- President Obama announced on Sunday that a free trade deal with Colombia will be fully enforced next month, declaring the agreement a win-win for both countries.

“We’re moving ahead with our landmark trade agreement,” Obama announced, standing alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Summit of the Americas.

The announcement, which was largely expected, comes after Colombia enacted a series of protections for workers and labor unions.

“Given the actions taken by President Santos and the Colombian legislature I can announce that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force next month on May 15,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Santos.

“This agreement is a win for both our countries,” Obama said.  “It’s a win for the United States by increasing our exports by more than $1 billion, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs and helping to achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports.  It’s a win for Colombia by giving you even greater access to the largest market for your exports: the United States of America.”

Obama also noted that “this agreement is a win for our workers and environment because of the strong protections it has for both, commitments that we are going to fulfill.”

The president spent the weekend at the summit touting economic growth in the region and highlighting his interest in Latin America in an election-year appeal to Latino voters back home.

U.S. unions, however, have opposed the trade pact, citing Colombia’s record of violence against labor leaders.  AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called the announcement on Sunday “deeply disappointing and troubling.”

“The politics of Obama’s action with this trade deal are totally inexplicable given this is not just another NAFTA, which polling shows most American despise, but one with the country that is globally notorious for murdering unionists and a deal that was passionately despised by the very union voters on whom Obama will rely to win key swing states and volunteer for the vaunted Obama campaign ground game,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global trade Watch, said in a written statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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