We’ve all been there, whether it behind the wheel of your car and pushed into a non-existent third lane of a two-lane thoroughfare, or feeling as if you are staring down the blunt yet deadly tip of the lance in a jousting tournament as the tell-tale 4×4 bears down on you at the pedestrian crossing, or narrowly avoiding certain death at the hands of the suited driver behind the tinted windows of a Chevrolet Blazer as it pulls up and over the kerb to park on the pavement. Yes, today’s target of choice is the Bogotá Stereotype No3: the Carro Escolta or the vehicle escort detail.
Following on hotly in the footsteps of the Bogotá Stereotype No1 the Oficinista and No2 the Bicinazi, we have No3 the Carro Escolta, I have decided to narrow down my focus in this circumstance and take aim at an infinitesimally small yet ever-present sector of society.
Clearly, since these licensed bodyguard drivers are subject neither to established traffic norms nor to Bogotá’s ubiquitous car free days, they run riot over the capital’s roads with a nonchalance herewith only otherwise seen practiced by drivers of the yellow zapatico taxis. Basically, what you are looking at is a taxi driver in an upgraded car (several times over) with the authority and permission to carry a gun.
To this day, I have still yet to hear the driver of a Carro Escolta speak. Happiest behind the wheel of the aforementioned Blazer, Toyota Fortuner or Ego, the Carro Escolta driver is the personification of a four-slice toaster draped in an Arturo Calle suit. Dare I suggest that many of them suffer from “small man syndrome” and being vertically challenged thus compensate this in (hoodlum) driving prowess for what they lack in stature?
For some time I have asked about the reality and actual need for so many Carro Escoltas in Bogotá. I say this in no way as a statement of disrespect to those who live and who have lived under the continual threat and cosh of kidnapping or worse in Colombia, but surely, some percentage of these vehicles can be left in the garage now?
Only this Sunday I saw former mayoral candidate and current Minister for the Post Conflict Rafael Pardo enjoying himself shopping in the north of the city. I looked for bodyguards everywhere and while my eye may be untrained, there were none in sight.
Visit Bogotá or any Colombian city and you too will be able to spot the Carro Escolta. They move like pack animals, group in the Zona G and downtown near to the seat of power and answer to nobody. If you suffer from road rage and feel the need to reprimand the driver of a Carro Escolta for running you off the road, find that happy place within, where your anger management training kicks in, and you may just get away unharmed.
Pardo likes to go out without bodyguards. My recollection is that a few years ago the government pared the list of people who get bodyguards on the government's dime, but most politicians can effortlessly afford to pay for their own.