Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 7: Group meetings and Universidad Technologica de Bolivar

IEDPers woke up to a much warmer, more humid climate this morning, having arrived in coastal Cartagena last night for our final day of meetings. Each group attended separate meetings in the morning but reconvened around mid-afternoon for a final hurrah at Universidad Technologica de Bolivar.

Our host explaining the history of the university.
Back when the university was founded in 1970 as a technological institute, Cartagena was a city of fewer than 350,000 inhabitants. Today, it is home to more than 1 million, and the university has grown along with it. In 2011 it joined a list of 20 other accredited universities in the country (a distinguished accomplishment). It is continually forming relationships with other universities and pushing to be a research institution.

Among the research being conducted at the Universidad Technologica de Bolivar currently are studies of the various development plans that are being designed and enacted nationwide. There are 1,133 such plans -- 1 at the national level, 32 in the departments and 1,103 in municipalities. There appears to be considerable lack of coordination between the various plans, making for ineffective implementation.

Our guests at the university shared some yummy banana cake with us while we admired their beautiful campus -- comprising colorful buildings, tropical trees that danced in the wind, and lots and lots of sun. It made for a pleasant grande finale!

- Lindsay

Dispatch from the security team

Today was a strong finish for the security team as we wrapped up our investigation on the Colombian Bacrims at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency office in Cartagena. After passing through tight security checkpoints, we met with the Special Agent-In-Charge of the office who has been with the agency for more than 20 years, much of which he had served in Latin America. He explained the importance and the severity of the Bacrims to security in Colombia. He also explained to us how the Bacrims smuggle illicit narcotics out of the country, including the use of submersibles or "drug subs." These makeshift submarines can submerge up to 60 feet underwater carrying tons of illicit drugs on just one trip. The use of these submarines make it exceptionally difficult for law enforcement and military forces to detect and intercept drug trafficking in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.

Our host also described the extremely fragmented organization of some of the main Bacrim groups and how they can buy off entire communities in order to operate. After our meeting, we rode to lunch in an armored SUV courtesy of the DEA. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your tax dollars being put to good use!


Dispatch from the social policy team

The morning began with the Observatorio del Caribe, a think tank in Cartagena that focused on generating information on development issues and policies in the Caribbean Coast. Their biggest effort at the moment is launching their information system to collect data from various stakeholders and archive it in a central, accessible location online. They are also working with the government on a large food security program. Their work is important because the Caribbean coast of Colombia has been disconnected from the interior, and there are huge gaps in knowledge about the region for policymakers.

The next meeting was one of our more interesting ones. We had a roundtable discussion with several community organizers, UNDP workers, and municipal government representatives who work specifically on issues of Afro-descendants. Everyone had a lot to say about the challenges for Afro-descendants. People had different ideas on the politics of racial identification and its role in mobilizing. A Palenque student stood out among the activists explained the daily experience of racial discrimination and micro-aggressions Afro-descendants faced.

- Ine

Dispatch from the business and trade team

This morning the Business and Trade team accompanied the Social Policy group to the Observatorio del Caribe Colombiano. This think tank develops strategies for regional development by creating public knowledge. To that end they have created an online database on their website ( This system is called the Sistema de Indicadores de Desarrollo del Caribe (SID) which features indicators that chart the rates of development in the Caribbean region of Colombia.

After a lovely lunch in the sun our group headed to the Universidad Technologica de Bolivar for our very last IEDP meeting with the entire group.

- Kyasha

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