After getting busted with four kilos of cocaine at the Bogota airport, The Mick spent his first four years in Colombia in Bogota’s La Modelo prison. He didn’t speak Spanish. He knew nothing about Colombia. He was in La Modelo from 1986 – 1989.
Soon after arriving, The Mick noticed a group of inmates waking up early every morning to exercise. They ran and did pushups, jumping jacks, and other calisthenics. Being an athlete himself, The Mick decided to join them. He just woke up early and tagged along. The leader of the crew, Ricardo, took notice of The Mick for being in good shape.
As he learned more about Colombia, The Mick learned he was training every morning with imprisoned members of revolutionary guerrilla army, M-19. M-19 was responsible for the infamous 1985 siege of the Palacio de Justicia, Colombia’s Supreme Court. They took 300 hostages including all the Supreme Court justices. The Colombian military responded with a bloody assault on the palace leaving over 100 people dead including justices, magistrates, hostages, soldiers, and all the guerrillas.
In the 1990s the Colombian government negotiated the demobilization of M-19 and brought them into the democratic process as a political party. Gustavo Petro – well-known leftist politician, presidential candidate, and current Bogota mayor – was an M-19 militant who turned to peaceful politics. The AD-M19 political party no longer exists, but Petro and others are still around. Here’s a shot of his 2009 presidential campaign office in Chapinero Alto.
M-19 was still in the peak of violent insurrection in 1986, and The Mick is working out with them every morning. In 1989 he got out and started his decades of alcoholism on the streets of Bogota. One day he was drinking and ran into Ricardo, the old leader of the M-19 training regimen in prison. They had become good friends in prison, so it was a pleasant reunion.
Ricardo invited The Mick to Ciudad Bolivar, the poorest slum in Bogota. He knew The Mick wouldn’t get spooked at what he was about to see. The Mick agreed and they left together.
When they arrived, The Mick saw the poorest living conditions he’d ever seen. But he was focused on the attraction that brought hundreds of local residents out to watch, a large stage built on top of a shanty. A solid beam rose above with a noose hanging from it. Two urban guerrillas pushed forward a hooded man. They put the noose around his neck and kicked him off the stage. He shook and convulsed for several minutes before dying in the noose, hanging above the crowd.
This public execution by revolutionary guerrillas in the nation’s capital occurred in broad daylight.
At that time, police didn’t go into Ciudad Bolivar. The locals had no protection. M-19 filled the void and provided security. Ricardo explained to The Mick the guy they hung had been raping kids – both boys and girls. As we see with limpiezas and private security forces – when government fails, street justice prevails.
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