Drug trafficking, gang warfare, murder and state-sponsored crime... In Medellin, it’s hard not to find a family affected by murder or kidnapping. Over 30 years, the violence saw 80,000 people lose their lives. But today, Medellin is trying to shake off its bad reputation, put on a new face and even attract tourists.
Just over twenty years ago, on December 2nd, 1993, Colombian police shot dead one of the most wanted fugitives in the world on a rooftop in Medellin. His name: Pablo Escobar. Back then, the notorious drug trafficker was involved in a merciless war against the Colombian state. Medellin, his home town, his refuge, was known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The working-class neighbourhoods were Escobar’s recruiting ground. Young people without hope of a better future gave in to the temptation of easy money and became assassins for the "narcos”, in return for a few pesos.
Medellin’s homicide rates long remained among the highest in the world. The city seemed trapped in a vicious circle of endless violence.
But twenty years after the death of Escobar, Medellin, nicknamed "the city of eternal spring” in Colombia, is finally rising from the ashes of its difficult past. In 2013 it beat New York and Tel Aviv to win the prize for the world’s most innovative city, awarded by the Wall Street Journal. A distinction earned in part thanks to a particularly efficient public transport system, with its metros and cable cars that connect the barrios (the working-class neighbourhoods) to the centre. But the prize is also no doubt due to excellent town planning and a thriving local economy.
A special report by Pascale MARIANI and Juan OROZCO
Video editing: John DE LOS RIOS