Recently I watched a program on the telly that profiled a woman from Colombia whose work and dedication to her country I had not known much about until the documentary's airing.
Maria Cristina Chirolla is undoubtedly an admirable and brave woman. Fully 80% of the world's cocaine is produced or trafficked through Colombia. A kilo of cocaine that can be bought in the Colombian jungle for approximately $1,100 will sell on the streets in the United States for $25-30,000 and for $60,000 in Europe. Little wonder then that the $5 billion a year drug trade has financed a civil war involving leftist guerrillas such as FARC and right-wing paramilitaries, a war in which 3000 people are kidnapped and where over 3,500 people lose their lives annually. And worse, much worse, corruption is found at every level of the central and local government.
Despite such realities, the modest Ms. Chirolla, who describes herself as only an 'honest citizen', works relentlessly to oust this marauding, ravenous beast from her beloved Colombia's borders. She served first as the head of her country's Attorney General's anti-money laundering office but, when corruption in the Attorney General's office was discovered which led to two high ranking firings, she was created the chief of anti-drug and anti-crime operations. Diminutive only in height, since her rise to power, Ms. Chirello has fearlessly executed operations targeted at the drug lords, operations in which she has destroyed their drug-making laboratories and seized their riches, the luxurious homes and furnishings, boats and yachts, the expensive European cars, and has succeeded in curbing drug trafficking to a noticeable degree.
In doing so, she risks the loss of her own life daily. Attempts have been made by paramilitaries controlled by the drug lords to assassinate her, one 2004 attempt being organized from a government army base in Bogota that she'd used as a safe house. In one particularly poignant scene, I watched Ms. Chirolla run on a treadmill with tears coursing down her cheeks because she felt that someday the drug lords will successfully assassinate her--just as they have murdered other valiant politicians before her--because the government cannot fully protect her; and yet she cannot resign her position because she cannot leave her work unfinished. Such is her love for Colombia and the average citizen.
Women like this I have encountered in Northern Ireland, women who have marched and demanded justice and equality without fear...or perhaps, now that I've reflected, they were awash in the same fear dogging Ms. Chirolla, yet were equally driven to do what had to be done and their determination won out.
[technorati: Colombia, Maria Cristina Chirolla, Bogota, cocaine]