HAVANA TIMES — TV series and soap operas are the two audiovisual products most widely consumed by Latin American audiences. A favorite topic for both is the issue of drug trafficking, as programs such as El cartel de los Sapos (“The Sapos Cartel”), La ruta blanca (“The White Path”), El Capo (“Crime Boss”), La Reina del Sur (“Queen of the South”) and others attest to.
These, we should bear in mind, are merely works of fiction that dramatize the issue of drug smuggling, from Colombia to the United States.
In 2012, thousands of people here followed every new chapter of the Colombian TV series Pablo Escobar: el patron del mal (“Pablo Escobar: Evil Mastermind”) aired by Canal Caracol and seen in Cuba thanks to Internet pirating. The series dramatized the biography of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, the proverbial drug lord, resurrected once again for the lead in a mini-series.
Though some names were changed, the series was quite accurate in the chronology of events and in the identity of the victims, particularly the most renowned public or political figures in Colombia at the time.
Stock footage and outstanding performances by the cast breathed new life into the Colombian anti-hero. It would seem, however, that Escobar is not the only one who has come back from the grave. Another notorious character, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, has been taking TV screens by storm since the last months of 2013.
The series Alias: El Mexicano (“Alias: The Mexican”), co-produced by RCN Television and FOX Telecolombia, is based on the life of another infamous mafioso from that somber period in Colombia’s history.
Glossing over this criminal’s life entails a look at hair-raising episodes in Colombia’s history during the 1960s, when thuggery became a livelihood for many in the country.
Back in the days when the Bank of Colombia supposedly controlled the prospecting for emeralds in Boyaca, thousands of treasure hunters fought and killed each other over the precious stones.
This fearful crime-boss, whose innumerable crimes turned him into one of Colombia’s most wanted, cut his teeth as a henchman for one such band of treasure hunters, in the war for control over the green gold. In the 90s, he was killed by the army.
It is probably no accident that Venezuela’s TV channel Telesur is currently airing a documentary series titled Las victimas de Pablo Escobar (“The Victims of Pablo Escobar”), a program that includes interviews, photographs and stock footage related to Escobar. Its aim is to again show us how monstrous drug trafficking can be and the corruption, lawless violence, acts of terror and suffering it can lead to.
Such efforts, however, aren’t enough. We know too well that Escobar, The Mexican and quite a few others have regrettably become icons for many. Today, many young Latin Americans look on these crime bosses as idols.
Combatting drug trafficking has become a priority for some governments in the continent. Other governments, in contrast, reap the “benefits” this ill offers them and play along, because of the immense amounts in bribes they secure.
The truth of the matter is that revisiting the lives of these criminals can have nefarious consequences, because we can’t be certain whether the examples they set will inspire good or evil. It will always depend on the moral backbone of the viewer (and their social status as well, of course).
Colombia should be wary of its unburied corpses.