Grand Bahama is not a Latin country, as it used to be a British colony, but it does have Latin connections, as it is part of the Colombian drugs route to the USA. Its a tropical paradise with an ex-pat society of rich home owners and holiday makers, juxtaposed to the poorer, often much poorer locals. The poverty living nearby the luxury can be clearly seen; mansions with swimming pools with electric fences and vicious guard dogs juxtaposed to shanty houses haphazardly built next door by the poor; a situation frequently to be seen throughout all of Latin America. It reminded me of the Sex Pistols song “Holidays In Other People’s Misery” The Island is unique with its ‘tree houses’ and endangered curly tailed lizards and has a large percentage of vicious guard dogs and less than vicious expatriates from Europe and the USA and it lies just tens of miles of the Florida coastline. One of the American ex-pats drove me around in his restored white Citroen and we glided past a derelict house on the scale of a mansion, it was a complete ruin with trees growing all through it. Bart the driver turned to me with a smile, “that’s a tree house” he said… I asked how it came to be like that… he told me that many small time gangsters were building these houses on the money they got from smuggling drugs into the USA, they wanted to emulate the rich new comers to the island and break out of poverty. Without education, jobs or the right connections they only had one route to financial security; they would take a speedboat and try to land somewhere on the Florida coastline, on board they’d have a stash of Colombian Cocaine, then, if it was successful they came back with millions of dollars. Some got greedy and made another trip after starting to build these mansions, they turn into ‘tree houses’ as they become abandoned when the owner is caught and imprisoned in Florida with 25 year prison sentences”. “There are lots and lots of tree houses on Grand Bahama” Bart informed me. All Bahamian buses have sound tracks, the private buses operated by the locals and the official buses too. Some play soul others reggae and others rock and pop. On this island its not a joke to say I’ll miss this one and wait to catch the reggae bus rather than calling it the 23. I sat at the back of the bus and as it pulled out of the bus station: Radio Bahamas played “I Will Get There” by Boyz II Men. At the first stop a fat lady got on and sat in the front seat next to the driver. The bus took off again turning off and left at the main roundabout opposite the Casino, I noticed a man wave to the bus driver who waved back, the bus slowed, it went very slow and there on a corner staring at the bus was a guy with a mobile phone, our driver was talking on his mobile….. as they passed they looked and nodded at each other. I carried on filming with my video camera. The bus stopped next to a house with a very untidy overgrown garden. It was not an official stop. A man came out of the undergrowth, carrying a parcel about the size of a shoe box he walked around the front of the bus, the fat lady leaned out of the window and the parcel was passed to her, the man leapt back into the garden the and bus pulled away and I stopped filming, as it struck me what might be happening. The bus continued on for about ten minutes, then a yellow cab overtook us and pulled into the curb. The bus stopped behind it. The fat lady and the parcel departed at this unscheduled stop. She got into the taxi, which did a ‘u’ turn right in front of the bus and spend off in the direction we had just come from. The bus then carried on. Funny that I thought! Bahamian people are very friendly I met quite a few in a bar, lots of the men stood there drinking Budweiser beer from the bottle. It was a small local bar and not one frequented by tourists. I went to the bar and ordered the local beer, the most popular is Kalik but I preferred another it was really good I’d had it before, and it was brewed on this island; it was called Hammer Head. The bottles label displayed a Hammer Head Shark. As I drank from the bottle at the bar the guys around were intrigued, they joked that I did not drink the beer of the USA like all the tourists, omitting that they were indulging in the same routine. I guessed they emulated them rather like the manner of cargo cultists to become like them, or attract their riches, through symbolism, but kept such thoughts to myself. I told them I was English which was as good as informing them immediately of our national attributes of eccentricity and love of beer. We discussed the merits of their local beer over the American rubbish as I called it. I had already had a few before coming into this particular bar and was in preaching mode: telling them to ‘dump the ‘Bud’ and drink your local beer’. One guy seemed impressed and we discussed all sorts of things, he offered to drive me to see the best beach on the island, and said he would collect me in the morning. [f1] Sure enough the next morning I was collected by my friend from the bar, good as his word. My Bahamian driver turned out to be an official on the island and remains anonymous due to his story which follows later. He said he was taking me to a fabulous deserted beach. To get there we passed a derelict USA radar station and cut off the road down a dirt track surrounded on all sides by very tall grasses as high as pampas grass but a different species. Here and there the tall towering spires of the centaury tree could be seen; it flowers every ten years by putting up a ‘spire’ twenty feet into the air, after it seeds the entire plant dies. We drove for a half hour through the grass forest then emerged very slowly onto the beach. He looked around nervously, ‘what’s up’ I asked. Then he told me the story about this beach. He had fished here frequently, it was peaceful and always deserted, until one occasion when he got to the beach in his Toyota four wheeler, bursting out of the grass cover to emerge onto the beach like a rally car driver, he joined several trucks with lots of guys with machine guns who were startled by his sudden appearance. They wanted to know who he was and searched him, as they did so several small speed boats came to the shore and the men, leaving one to guard him, went down to meet them. They started transferring boxes from the trucks to the boats. He was asked to help and did so, an hour passed in unloading the boats cargo, which was high grade Colombian cocaine packed in water proof plastic sheeting, millions upon millions of dollars worth of the stuff. After the two trucks were unloaded the boats sped off with their contraband cargo, and then all the men surrounded him. They said they knew who he was, and indeed he knew who they were as he knew of them previously. He laughed I knew them they knew me he informed me. He expected a bullet or two coming his way very soon. They asked him would he cause them any trouble? He assured them he would be quite. They let him go. And he had kept quite ever since, he told me he saw them now and again, often they smiled and fussed about him as their friend when he came across them in bars or in the streets. He had always remained silent after all he said if I spilt the beans they would have me and my family killed. It was a chilling tale. It made me nervous as I got out of the car and looked up and down the massive stretch of deserted white sands and beautiful green blue shallow sea. I told him the story of my filming on the bus, he said don’t talk about it and to destroy it or I could be found face down not breathing in the dirt. After an hour or so of walking along the shoreline he said ‘come on I’ll take you for a typical Bahamian meal; Conch and chips’. He was joking about our English staple food, fish and chips, and said ‘theirs was the Conch; the sea shell found all around the coastline but it was not served in newspaper’ he laughed. When we got the food from a small wooden kiosk painted in typical bright Bahamian colours, he had also got us a couple of Hammer Head beers to wash it down with. There are lots of almost tame and accessible wildlife on the island, at the wildlife sanctuary funded by the Rand Corporation; birds of many species like the Red Throated Thrush and lots of Tanagers, Humming Birds, and Flamingos flit about or wander past. The Great Flamingo is the Bahamian national bird. Raccoons introduced from the USA mainland, are partially tame and eat out of your hand. It’s the same with the cute Curly Tailed lizards; literally their tails curl up and down and they come right upto you expecting to be fed, its best to ignore them as they are becoming an endangered species, because there are fearless and leave their natural cover due to years of being fed by human hands, they have become easy meat for the hundreds upon hundreds of dogs roaming about. Dogs ruin the charm of the island, probably due to the drug running gangsters and violent muggings; almost everyone has a guard dog. These dogs are trained to be vicious. Semi tame trays run around in packs. Its virtually impossible to walk anywhere. Every step passing a house results in dogs barking and viciously jumping up at the armored wire fences surrounding most properties. If you want to get about even if its just to the end of the street people drive, if you are brave enough to walk your entire trip will be accompanied by various packs of dogs and their continuous barking, plus the dogs at each house you pass leaping up at the house fences. I had to borrow an electronic dog-deterrent device just to get to the beach from a house 25 feet away. In the pop chart for the Bahamas (in 2000) was a song all about the dogs, in the Soca style of Bahamian music popular all over the islands; ‘Dogie’ by Colin Lucas. I was reminded for a couple of years about these dogs as a UK group called Baha Men recorded the song as: ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ which was a big chart hit, and still gets played occasionally on the radio. But its not as good as the Colin Lucas original. Lots of Europeans and Americans bought second homes on the island in the fifties and sixties as Grand Bahama was, and still is a beautiful island but not as popular nor as expensive as the others in the Bahamian chain. ‘Satchmo’ Louis Armstrong, built a ‘pink’ bungalow, here. Nowadays most of these folk would like to leave, mainly due to the, increasing violence and the general deteriorating community spirit due to the drug trade, which comes here in small boats and planes from Colombia. As a result the price of property has dropped, virtually trapping many now retired people. I met one very nice old gentleman from Estonia, he showed me around his house after calling off his four well-trained Rotweilers that wanted to shred me to pieces and eat my insides, from the look in their eyes. One of them came inside following us and I swear it never took its eyes of me. When I sat so did the dog, when I got up it was already up and snarling at me. My host had to constantly calm it down. As we talked I began to understand that he was one of the residents that could not escape, as he told me how frightened he was in this paradise, fearful of robberies, muggers and lowering property prices. As he showed me old photographs and explained how he came here originally after my question about it, I realized he was in the police in Estonia in 1942 to 1944. I new enough history to realize he was probably a Nazi sympathizer and a Gestapo police stooge and had escaped before the country was liberated, had he stayed he would certainly have been hung up on a lamppost, there was no way he was going home voluntarily, so maybe his suffering was just? When you have the rich and the poor living cheek by jowl the poor have to do what they have to do to survive and the rich have to take protective measures, sadly I found this situation all over Latin America, except in locations were the indigenous people where in control of things then I felt completely welcomed and secure. Unfortunately this state of things is being slowly eroded. The Bahamas are rich in comparison to most of Latin America, if this was happening here what would it be like in poorer countries? My last night on the Island was the New Years day carnival (2000) it was wall to wall Soca music. One large float was booming out ‘Look Wha’ Ya Do’ the top of the hit parade; by Emily Austin and Ronnie Butler. Many of the drummers poured alcohol onto the ground and lite it, then bathed their drums in the flames. I realized this was a superstition to play well and probably asking the ‘Orishas’, the old African gods, to give good fortune. This was Voodoo. [f2 & 3] Brightly coloured floats and bands passed by, and there was at least one guy dressed from head to foot in white. He Passed by dancing all over the street dressed all in white with a jacket that had sequins on the lapels and swinging a white cane stick he was a tall thin man. He threw his up into the air then picked it up all whilst dancing; he had great rhythm and style. Although dancing and glinting with his sequins he was still the typical white image of a suited priest of the Lucumi or Santeria religion, which is Voodoo: a superstition I would be aware of on later travels and one that dominated other islands nearby, including the supposedly modern and religion free Marxist republic of Cuba. Columbia Many years ago my business partner told me lots of tales about his experiences in Columbia. He was married to a Columbian lady. In the mid nineteen eighties the A.R.C Gloria sailed in the Tall Ships race from its home port of Cartagena, Colombia. Colombian Navy Cadets are trained on this vessel and it had a crew of 150 of them. When the majestic sailing ship entered the harbour, riverside near the Albert Dock in Liverpool to the beat of a solitary drum, in their white uniforms the cadets slowly climbed the rigging in synchronised steps. The author of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ was onboard, we were invited to a reception and a dance on board, but sadly we did not meet Gabriel Garcia Marquez as he was below decks in his cabin feeling ill. The captain showed us around and the most impressive part of the tour was in his cabin were, he showed off several large wooden display cases. He opened them slowly and carefully with a key and there before me was real Inca gold. Indian gold artefacts of priceless value, with amazing intricate artwork, on knife blade handles and small flattend golden plates; small figures with large head regalia, they almost had an inner light they shined so magnificently. This look about them immediately dispelled my initial belief that these must be fakes, copies. Why would they risk such treasures, the ship could sink? They could be stolen, but then it was a military ship with a military guard. My cynical friend told me about rumours of the real gold on board, the golden artefacts he said were protected by the drugs cartel, and there was probably one on board; a drugs cartel; he winked and bet me that cocaine sales would rise when the ship left port. He may have been right and maybe some people on board have been sailing the world on a distribution run lasting many years; as recently the ship was busted and 20 million dollars worth of cocaine was found on board. My friend told me lots of tales about Columbia. How the drug people showed off by fitting swimming pools, fixed and projecting out of tall apartment blocks as a sign of wealth. How mad about cycling the Columbians are, how they had idolised Luis Herrera who won stages in the Tour de France and won the Tour of Spain 1987 and in recent times the darker side as he was abducted for a ransom. The Colombians adore sport but someone shot dead Andres Escobar on his return from the world cup when he let in a goal that put Colombia out of the world cup. How the parliament was crashed into by a tank, and how a lady in the opposition party attracted attention to her speech by letting off a couple of rounds from a machine gun into the parliament building roof. More sinister, he told me of a family friend who was well connected to government officials who knew the real ‘inside’ stories, about Pablo Escobar the chief of a united set of drug barons who was adored by the poor as a Robin Hood like character. Deported and arrested by the Americans, which removed any remaining order or controls. Resulting in the situation today in which the trade is out of control due to numerous drug barons and cartels popping up after the hydra head of Pablo was cut off even the Marxist guerrillas openly control much of the trade and even sell along the countries borders. My friend a ‘politico’ told me that politicians knew they would be killed if they opposed the real drug people; those high in the police and military. And how they organised raids against renegades who set up their own drugs business cutting them out. Cynically he explained that almost all escaped presidents from Latin American countries escaped when the game was up, and with hordes of cash, often in gold, to reside in America where wealth has a good effect upon deportation procedures. He related the time when his phone was constantly ringing with a voice saying ‘he was to leave the house unlocked on a date the following week’. He reported this to his relative who had influence with a special forces group that were beyond reproach, they came along at the same time and caught a gang of men with a truck emptying the house of all possessions. When challenged a machine gun battle ensued resulting in several deaths of the robbers and the others escaping with multiple bullet wounds. After everything calmed down, he went with the special forces major to the police station to report the crime and found it deserted, apart from a dead and wounded ‘policeman’ it was the local police that were organising these crimes, it was the way they supplemented their income. They had done this for years and did not expect a paramilitary response. He told me about several people who wanted him to help fund a recovery of gold from The Jesuit Gold ship that had been sunk and lost in a storm, when Spain was raiding the gold and silver hordes from all over Latin America in the sixteenth century. There was a ‘cartel’ a common name for scams in Colombia these rich people were helping divers recover items from the ship and they wanted my friends help. He was assured that the ship was found outside Columbian national territorial waters. This was an important point. In any case he decided not to go for it. Some time later these divers were caught by the Navy and they were inside territorial waters and so the wreck was Colombian property. They were tried as thieves and pirates along with their backers; some high ranking officials and ‘business men’ they were all executed! There was a book of fiction based upon it; the story became a best seller. His stories came into sharper relief when a friend of a friend sent their son who was in trouble with a drugs cartel to work at our office in the UK for a time, or an alternative tale that he had impregnated a high ranking government official’s daughter. Either way or both the man was seriously ‘on the run’. He showed all the attributes associated with a man on the run; he was nervous, always wore sun glasses, was immaculately dressed in a dark suit and had managed to smuggle his gun through UK customs; he affectionately referred to it as ‘Oozy’ it was a small shiny machine pistol. I was pleased when he moved on to another European country. All of this was long ago in the 1980’s These days the news doesn’t get any better from Columbia. Politicians are elected to change things as the honest people want the simple things that a society should provide: education for their children, healthcare, jobs and so on. But the politicians come and go and in the process they get richer as the people get poorer. Politicians worldwide are loosing favour from the people, as they only tackle surface issues. To tackle real problems takes real determination and foresight and the ability to recognise the underlying causes rather than treating some of the visible symptoms. This is also the case in the developed world so it tells us something about the people that lead us rather than the country and the situation they are in. Historically in Latin America, when the election is over and power comes to those who got there by emphasis on their political ideas and the need for change; nothing does and it’s the very same in Europe and the USA. The situation is that such people, who are attracted to this power status, have not got the means, or the brains to rectify the problems due to a desire to just stay in power. The SciFi writer Frank Herbert wrote about power in his Dune novels and in an interview he said “its not power that corrupts, its power that attracts the corruptible”. I have talked with many people at the top, middle, and bottom of the political and commercial aspects of Latin American life. Some favour the old ways of dictatorship, when drug crime was easily sorted out, no problem to shoot them when now and again doing the same thing to political opponents they said with a grin. Others favour democracy and hope it will work, others believe in the violent removal of the regime in power, some wished that the British not the Spanish had colonised them! Others were blaming all ills on the USA and they may be correct when the CIA paid assassins to kill Doctor Che Guevara and were involved in the overthrow of the president of Chile, Ecuador and Panama. They may also have been involved in de-stabilisation of sovereign states by means of extended loans as explained by John Perkins in his book ‘Confessions of an Economic hit Man’. Latin America has had an almost endemic disease of oppressive regimes started with the Spanish, or maybe before that with the oppressive death cults of the ancients; its as if its now in the soil. Oppression, violence, corruption, criminality and poverty is the mixture were those that are the most ruthless survive and prosper. The people who do honest work get educated in Latin America, especially the poorer nations, often can’t find employment. They see the less educated buying cars and houses funded by drug sales. The most ruthless or desperate use criminality to gain power and this power historically has always meant money. Money is power. It corrupts. It is used in all levels of society for favours, small or large. It controls the politicians, the military the police, it runs through everything at all levels. Fighting against it is so difficult, its much easier to go with the easier methods and become a rich politician. It is the drugs trade that has made this situation. It provides vast wealth to those involved; this is used to keep it all moving smoothly along, periodically a few people are arrested, maybe a poor Indian farmers crops are burned, to show the fight against drugs is continuing. The vast amounts of money are available for all in the chain to be able to tap into this wealth and the higher up the scale the larger the amounts. Well intentioned people fighting the drugs trade soon find a wall of difficulties inhibiting any real progress. This business is huge and its sales outlets are America and Europe. The future break down in society in these ‘advanced’ countries can clearly be seen to be happening almost along Colombian lines. Drugs are the biggest menace to society; the future of these countries is to look at Colombia today. In our so called advanced democracy we are told that we need to help the addicts, more drop in clinics etc This is all the politicians sanction; treating the symptoms not the cause. Addressing the real causes might be long term and unpopular and violate citizens rights, so they ignore the problem and consequently the sub infrastructure gains in power which equals wealth to infiltrate the organisations and the people that can keep it all moving along. Eventually all our advanced and democratic societies may become Colombianised; it will simply be a matter of time. Then the prophecy and the curse of the Inca priests mentioned in the book The Enigma Of Machupicchu will come about. This book is a fiction mixed with certain events and ideas; it was written by Oscar Medina Zevallos. It re-tells the ‘rumour’ of a curse placed on the Spanish (and meaning the descendents of the nations and society that destroyed the Inca empire; i.e. European/American) by the Inca priest shamans using occult techniques and in revenge for their treatment. They cursed the occupiers of their lands and predicted that our societies would perish due to the abuse of their sacred Coca leaves. Even if we don’t believe in such curses the drugs threat is causing far more problems than others that seem more simple to achieve and fit with politically correct objectives; whereas the entire associated drug issue is eating away at the basic fabric of our society, politicians do not appear to want to face upto hard facts with no short term easy solutions. Are we so stupid to be blind to these issues? Probably. We only need to investigate our own sociology, the way we behave as individuals and as groups in society, and how easily we are manipulated, by politicians and advertisers to only look closely at the issues they can keep a lid on. The saying is – we get the political leaders we deserve. Is this due to apathy? Our society situation in regard to the drugs menace is comparable to the story of the frog that sits in a pan of water which is put on the stove to boil. If a frog is dropped into a pan of boiling water it jumps out rapidly, but if it is placed in cold water then very slowly heated up; when the realisation dawns it is then too weak to do anything. The Indian cultures in Latin America have no drug problem they use coca as a sacred plant to aid digestion suppress hunger, help with altitude sickness and many other remedies. We could investigate its potential for treating obesity, fatigue suppression, breathing difficulties and helping in lots of medical problems and thus cultivate it paying the Indian farmers a good fee. It takes a bold politician who will bring about such a strategy when others will criticise it as fostering drugs. The presidents of Peru and Bolivia, Alejandro Toledo & Evo Morales are the first ‘indigenos’ to be elected in their own homeland they are also receiving help from the president of Venezuela with its emerging oil prosperity freed recently from multinational ownership, or strangulation as Hugo Chavez might say. Time will show if these men are incorruptible Drugs found on Colombian flagship [f4] [f5] Confessions of an economic hitman ……. A large cache of cocaine and heroin has been found on the Colombian navy's flagship, the Gloria. Government statement The government would rather see the ship rot than let this type of crime continue rotting our national dignity The discovery was made just as Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo was to tour the ship during an official visit. The sailing ship, which is the pride of the national fleet, was also due to visit the US and Europe to try to promote Colombia's image abroad. The incident is the latest in a series of scandals dogging the Colombian security forces. President Alvaro Uribe called the incident a stain on the nation's honour and ordered the entire 75 crew members suspended. Officials found 16.5kg (36lb) of heroin and 10kg (22lb) of cocaine hidden in the engine room of the historic three-masted ship. The drugs would have been worth millions of dollars if sold on the streets of the US or Europe, correspondents say. "The government would rather see the ship rot than let this type of crime continue rotting our national dignity," the government said in a statement. The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Medellin says the incident is the latest in a series of scandals which have seen generals and colonels sacked for corruption or incompetence and the army accused of being trigger-happy. He adds that it will have done little to reassure the visiting Peruvian leader that the Colombian armed forces can do anything to stop the Marxist guerrillas who frequently cross into Peru and are now selling drugs along the frontier.