Do I live in the “Most Criminal City in the World?”

Apparently, according to German daily newspaper Bild Zeitung and the finely chosen words of scribe Ralf Schuler, I do indeed live in the “most criminal city in the world.”

Bogota skyline

Bogota skyline

How unfortunate for Mr. Schuler that during his press trip to Colombia he narrowly escaped being kidnapped by criminal gangs stepping off the jet way upon arrival at the shiny new El Dorado terminal, that he had to hole up in the Bronx where the only respite from the chilly high altitude nighttime bite was the bazuco offered in place of café Quindiano, that he dodged anti-aircraft fire from the FARC as his trip with German President Joachim Gauck took him from the capital to Medellin.

Now the Colombian press has gotten hold of Mr. Schuler’s article. And we like them are asking many of the same questions: “where and what are your sources for this article Mr. Schuler?”

from the German newspaper

from the German newspaper

Sunday’s article in El Tiempo is clearly meant to enrage, and it is working, with 541 comments and counting racked up at the base. There are 191 comments presently on the same article on the El Espectador site.

Mr. Schuler, What Have You Done?

Colombians are incredibly sensitive about the sort of criticism that now threatens to sully the careful branding that the country has been harvesting for nearly a decade. Converse with any Colombian and after lauding their country, the food, the people, the beaches and varied attractions, they will also be the first to complain about the insecurity, the corruption, the pollution and so on.

I would like to know how much Mr. Schuler actually knows of Colombia and whether he has been here for longer than the fleeting visit as part of the German President’s press corps. Colombia for a journalist is a hard sell as a good news item and there’s no knowing how long it will take to reverse the negativisms of the past 30 years. But, do we really need another piece of lazy reporting decanting virulent untruths?

So long a byword for cocaine and kidnapping, Colombia is now………. [fill in as you see fit].  

But, as one journalist addressing another Mr. Schuler, wouldn’t it have been more challenging and ultimately more satisfying to buck the odds and write about today’s Bogota? Yes, you may be going out on a limb to write well of gritty Bogota, a city not without her problems. But, now you will forever be remembered in the same breath as writer Thomas Kohnstamm (he of the Lonely Planet guidebook scandal).

Thomas Kohnstamm's book about travel writing

Thomas Kohnstamm’s book about travel writing

Now you have scores of resident expat journalists (sensitive pedants) and Colombians on your case. We can all assure you that Bogota is far from being the “most criminal city in the world.”

About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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30 Responses to Do I live in the “Most Criminal City in the World?”

  1. Naomi says:

    Sounds like some very lazy journalism to me. Of course Bogota is not perfect but times have changed and it's about time that there was some good news articles about Colombia. Whilst these sort of statistics are always to be taken with a pinch of salt, Washington D.C has a higher murder rate than Bogota – what does Mr. Schuler have to say about that?

    • Richard says:

      Of course, and those of us here take almost everything with a pinch of salt…but when you know the guy has only spent 72 hours in the country and supposedly based his argument on the "number of bodyguards" used to protect the German President, it's pretty shocking. Mr. Schuler has yet to reveal his sources.

  2. Belgacol says:

    Just a short reflection, and without any approval towards the opinion of the author of the article. If instead of using the argument of the number of bodyguards to the president, to whom nothing bad has ever happened, he would have used the argument of the number of bodyguards given to journalists, union, community leaders and the like, some of whom get assassinated on weekly, monthly basis, I think it wouldn't be that easy to immediately reject the statement of the author.

    • Richard says:

      Very interesting take indeed and a very poignant point for reflection. I doubt the author felt too much aggression comfortably housed in the JW Marriott and riding in luxury. But, yes, were we to consider Colombian Union leaders, Community leaders and local journalists, then there is great pause for thought.

  3. sfoswald says:

    It is all unfortunate. But I really wouldn't be too outraged. The Bild newspaper in Germany is not the most respectable paper in any case. Whenever I'm at the news state I'd never read the paper. It's headlines are too sensational and rarely based on the truth. Further more it's typical readership are unlikely to ever want to make the journey to Colombia. To be frank, they not be the type of person that Colombia would want visiting in any case.

    Ralf Schuler used over sensational words to write an over sensational piece. As a German I can say reading it in German and then using Google Translate to read it in English makes the piece sound even worse. I see from your piece that you've included the wording "So brutal Ist Bogotá". I can say that Brutal is used a lot in this newspaper to describe a lot of their articles subject matter.

    From Ralf's twitter account he does state that his numbers are from the mayor's office. Upon checking he seems to be correct. However the number hardly makes it the most dangerous city in the world. The crimes he describes have happened. He also draws attention to Gustavo Petro being an ex-Guerrilla. He's basically used all different bad aspects just top make his piece sensational.

  4. Marco says:

    Es el peor periodico de Alemania, lleno de cliches y mentiras. Conozco Bogota – y NO es asi! Que verguenza! Muchas personas han dejado su comentario en el blog de ese Ralf Schuler.

  5. Andre says:

    thanks a lot for that article. i am the owner of a german south america travel portal. we support columbia where ever we can. we feel sorry that a german journalist is telling lies about your worthy country. i will post your article on our facebook page in order to fight for a better reputation for columbia.
    sincerly Andre

  6. Dismal says:

    Pienso que la reacción fue también muy sensacionalista por parte de los medios en Colombia, queriéndonos hacer indignar por algo que realmente siempre ha pasado y que es muy díficil de cambiar. Los colombianos abrimos las puertas a los extranjeros y damos el 110% pero somos unos parias en sus países. Es así.
    La gente dice "Qué se puede esperar de Bild" o " "Colombia no es perfecto; pero tampoco es así". Ambas afirmaciones me parecen erradas. El hecho que Bild sea un periódico sensacionalista (tabloid) no le quita su gran popularidad y que forme la opinión de una mayoría. Y sobre la segunda idea, existe un optimismo desbordado sobre el país que no corresponde a su realidad. Quizás no sea el país más "criminal" del mundo; pero sigue siendo de los más inequitativos, dónde la inversión extranjera (léase explotación) aumenta gracias a una especulación sin control, etc, etc.

    • Richard says:

      Gracias por tu comentario, es siempre muy interesante ver como la gente reacciona cuando hay "noticias" del estilo de Bild. Aqui la gente es muy sensible y las heridas estan bien profundas en cuanto a la reputacion del pais, pero, no hay duda que hay problemas aqui y no estamos escondiendo del hecho….hay dos lados que debemos reconocer: la prensa colombiana tambien hizo los reportajes en una forma de vender periodicos mientras el periodico aleman publico un reportaje sin justificacion pensando que el periodista vio 1% del pais y formo una opinion claramente sensacionalista.

  7. Alejandro says:

    If everybody knew the rubbish this paper publishes everyday, even the kind of public it reaches, there’d be less worry. Bild Zeitung is a low IQ publication for low IQ readers.

    • Richard says:

      Yes, it's true, we don't know the readership or demographics for this paper. Apparently they have an editorial line of complete sensationalism. Thank you for commenting Alejandro.

  8. Paul says:


  9. Sergio says:

    Funny thing….. BILD published yesterday another article about the ten most dangerous cities in South America. Guess what…… the only Colombian city in the list is Cali……

  10. Sergio says:

    Positive Colombia, that's what we should all talk about. All are welcome to join a select group at:

  11. viejosaulo says:

    Richard, thanks for your words. Totally agree. I was discussing with Ralf Schuler via mail the topic and he lets know, he is not interested in the really important reasons of Joachim Gaucks visit to Colombia.

    Here my note and discussion about it:

  12. Miguel says:

    Hi Richard, thanks a lot for targeting this. I myself wrote a letter to Bild, but have not received any answer to it, except the automatic reply that I was to be contacted soon …

    This article you mentiones was trully upsetting, as where the next three he wrote about the presidents visit to places in Bogota and Medellin. He couldn´t write the name of this cities without adding the world "criminal" or "dangerous" to it …

    Someone must have told Bild something as the articles have been changed a bit and the blood stopped dripping from it. Even the headline changed, but still what you read is the vision of a Colombia from 20 years ago. I guess this Mr. Schuler never saw the actual Colombia, but was in a desperate surch for what he thought Colombia would be like … or the headline which sells better … or perhaps to rise his salary be asking his employer for an additional "high-risk-bonus"?

    What I find the most synical thing about all this "Colombia-Information" is when at the end they ask for the readers comments. So Bild just informed their readers about the terrible life of Colombian displaced childhood and the query they start is for comments on how readers feel about Mr Gauck´s (the president) escorting girlfriend, to whom he is not married to. So at the end it all turns into a discussion of Mr. Gauck´s private life, not a single comment about the children! They couldn´t care less!

    • Richard says:

      It has been a dreadful slur on the country, you are right to have written to Bild. There are many problems in Colombia, we must never forget this, but we are coming forward and that the German President should visit Bogota and Medellin is testament to this fact. I find it appalling that a member of the Presidential Press Corps, who comes along for the ride, is himself treated like royalty, then turns around and writes a piece like this. But, we have seen it all before, and all too likely it will happen once again. We just need to focus on the positive while addressing the negative, I don't imagine you'll receive a response from the Bild, but when you do, please send it over!

  13. Dan says:

    The inaccuracy of Schuler's articles is obvious to anyone who knows Colombia, but I'd question how much damage is inflicted by sensationalist nonsense such as this.

    At the risk of sounding elitist: are German investors, "opinion-makers", prospective visitors etc. going to give the slightest credence to an over-excitable tabloid hack? They know the Bild is pure prensa amarilla.

    Of course, unfairly negative pieces should be exposed. But if the country's outward-facing image is so fragile, positive press needs to prevail. There's a plethora of creative ways to go about that, and given the strength of the reaction Schuler's article provoked, no shortage of energy to implement them.

    • Richard says:

      It's true, and your points are very valid. Colombia already appeals to a certain class of German and they invest and visit Colombia frequently. But, the image of Colombia needs to pervade every class to be able to make strides forward. I never knew how amarillista the Bild was until I saw their editorial line floundering from one day to the next regarding Colombia.

  14. elvan savkli says:

    Well , this is how most germans are and so called journalist. it seems to me ,they just can not let go their prejudices and how they think they are better .

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