IT’S not yet properly daytime, the reds and yellows of dawn are still colouring the dark sky, but already there is activity on the narrow, cobbled street in Bogota’s historic La Candelaria area. At one end there is a roadblock. Armed men in military and police uniforms are waving away traffic seeking access to the vast Plaza de Bolivar. Only pedestrians, mostly locals already on their way to work, get through.
As the morning proper arrives, from our window in the historic Hotel de la Opera we watch a stream of official black cars with heavily tinted windows squeeze up the narrow street and park outside the elegant San Carlos Palace, famous as the site of an assassination attempt on Simon Bolivar and now a government building. The smartly dressed drivers are attentively standing by their vehicles. Now, we can hear, in the distance the sound of military bands and a cavalcade of mounted soldiers clatters along a nearby street. Something is definitely going on.
But venturing out we have a quick conversation with one of the cheery soldiers on point duty who reveals nothing alarming in the sudden show of force. Instead, it’s a formal event in honour of the out-going police chief. Medals are being handed out. Crowds are enjoying the spectacle. It’s a new day. The events of the past still cast long shadows over modern-day Colombia; but they are fading fast. Today, the spotlight is