Medellin has recently been chosen as the most innovative city in the world thanks to its liberalised development policies and inventive economy. Urbanists are going gaga over the new architectural and transport achievements of Colombia’s second largest city.
When visiting the city it’s hard to escape the idea that all this regeneration is a result of the fortune accumulated during the drug cartel under Pablo Escobar’s dark reign. During the 1970s and 1980s the drug lord, often regarded as one of the wealthiest criminals in history, organised a network of drug suppliers and smugglers originating in the city of Medellin. The cartel operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, the United States, as well as Canada and parts of Europe. Is it possible that something as dirty as cocaine money laundering could be used to a good end? The street price for a gram of the purest cocaine in Medellin is about three US dollars. There is no decadent mystique about it. It’s not the white elixir of the elites, nor the cheeky entertainment of the weekend crowds or wannabes. Here cocaine is like any another local product; the chemical free coffee full of flavour or the abundant gold powder available in the rivers.
Cocaine is like a pig being slaughtered – nothing goes wasted. The chemical leftovers of the synthesising process are mixed with kerosene and brick powder. This new paste is called Basuco and is similar to crack in its addictive power. Basuco is so cheap and available that it can be sold to the poorest of the poor, turning the homeless into a category of consumers.
Video & words by Andrea Vecchiato
Original score by Francesco Pierantozzi
Special Thanks to Dominic Venton