It had been right before rush hour on Aug. 23, 2017, once the Bogota, Colombia, district police and SWAT squad came for the gangs of El Cartuchito, a location with a potent illicit drug trade and open usage of bazuco, a cocaine derivative much like crack. Clad in anti-riot gear and armed with batons and tear gas, police were submitted, the citys Department of Security later tweeted, to reclaim the region for the citizens.
That has been the spin. Used, the authorities actually vacated not only the drug gangs but additionally people guilty of nothing illegal, namely homeless people, individuals who use bazuco and garbage pickers. These activities, if socially frowned upon, aren’t crimes in Colombia, including the possession of drugs for personal consumption.
After forcibly removing everyone from El Cartuchito, the authorities gave residents a plastic snap-on bracelet, permitting them to return to a nearby.
The raid was just the most recent aggressive operation to completely clean up Bogota. Based on the citys Department of Security, in 2016 there have been 15 such raids on three ollas, or open-air drug scenes. Mayor Enrique Pealosa, who entered office in 2016, insists that the crackdowns certainly are a public safety necessity because Bogotas ollas have grown to be operating centers for organized crime where children are at the mercy of massive sexual exploitation.
Its true that Bogota faces a genuine security challenge in places like El Cartuchito, where homicide rates are acutely high. Alongside other researchers, Ive been talking with people in the ollas for a long time about the way the city can keep residents, including homeless children, safer. But its clear if you ask me a strategy of violent displacement accompanied by investment and gentrification isn’t the solution.
Uncovering the olla
The El Cartuchito raid was mild in comparison to what Pealosas administration unleashed this past year within an area called El Bronx. IN-MAY 2016, SWAT teams raided the downtown streets in the center of the night time, joined by child protective services along with other city agencies.
Those that refused to go were gradually driven out from the area, first right into a plaza, then into surrounding ollas and, eventually, right into a canal bed on Sixth Street.
There, police kept a huge selection of people contained for weeks. During the night, Bronx exiles explained, the officers would form a cordon to help keep them from leaving the canal. Every third night, in accordance with testimonies, police forced this group to go up or down the canal, apparently arbitrarily. I spent a night in the canal and witnessed the containment-and-sleep-deprivation strategy firsthand.
Two local human rights organizations, CPAT and PARCES, whose May 2017 joint report details the brutal treatment of El Bronx residents, filed a complaint against Pealosas administration in the Inter-American Human Rights Court. The case is pending.
Before the Bronx crackdown, in-may 2016, the town had also cleared the Carrilera shantytown, burning down cardboard homes and dismantling shacks. What exactly are they doing? The federal government is trampling on the indegent, on homeless people! one witness said within an interview with El Espectador newspaper. They gave us no alternatives, such as a spot to go, a location to call home.
The proper to the town
This debate about who belongs in cities is longstanding. Because the feminist geographer Melissa Wright has written, elite urbanites often equate progress with the disappearance of particular social groups who, to them, degrade public space.
In 1990s-era NEW YORK, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cracked down on standard of living crimes like prostitution. Recently, the brand new mayor of So Paulo, Brazil, Joo Doria, razed a significant downtown crack scene and homeless encampment.
People living on the streets of the administrative centre routinely face harassment and police aggression. The Cartuchito and Bronx raids drove homeless residents and sex workers from the ollas, where most Bogota residents never saw them, and scattered them (in addition to the criminals who operated in the ollas) throughout this city of eight million.
But urbanists and scholars have long recognized the proper of each citizen to occupy public space. In a seminal 2008 article in the journal THE BRAND NEW Left, the geographer David Harvey wrote that is among the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.
The proper to the town was also a style of last years US Habitat III conference, which centered on creating a new urban agenda for the planet.
Theres no magic pill for urban inequality, but you can find methods to promote progress in cities while respecting the rights of the very most marginalized. Programs offering social services, healthcare, housing and employment might help transform the lives of drug users. For the time being, harm reduction services like needle exchange and peer education can reduce risky behaviors.
In a report on El Bronx released on Sept. 27 by the University of the Andes Center for the analysis of Security and Drugs, the researchers think about what state-sponsored treatment plans will be legally viable in Colombia and recommend exploring experimental health strategies tailored to the requirements of Bogotas bazuco users.
Such efforts were beginning to get underway in prior mayoral administrations, and from 2012 to 2016 the town operated mobile health centers for drug users in El Bronx. But Pealosa quickly eliminated these projects.
Everyone ousted from El Cartuchito, El Bronx, along with other reclaimed areas share a very important factor: all of them are street-connected, and therefore their day to day activities happen largely in public areas. In denying such people their to the town, Bogota officials are essentially denying them their to exist.