Security in Developing Countries: Need a Culture Shock?
They take security much more seriously in Colombia and Ecuador than we do here. The only real culture shock I can remember was in Ecuador getting a sick feeling in my stomach when you going into a bank with a guard outside holding the biggest shotgun I've ever seen. Or walking past fully armed soldiers in a public square. Or driving by houses barricaded and wall tops of broken glasses. Like its a damn war zone.
In both these countries (and most likely many others), when walking through an upper class residential neighborhood, it's not uncommon to find such things as:
Security guards for each block
Guard dogs for houses
Barbed wire, heavy barricades, barred windows, broken glass wall tops
Complexes were you have to get past a guard or doorman to enter the building. (more similar with us)
One day I was walking to class and in this residential neighborhood, for some reason there was a soldier in full uniform with an automatic rifle on each corner for 3 blocks in every direction. Really weird, so I asked somebody walking by and they said that probably because there was someone really important they were protecting.
A lot of protection for someone, and it was obvious protection. Not the secret service like protection were they are quiet and work in the background. These guys were in full view and send a message to everyone:
"Hey look how many guns we got. Don't even think about it."
There's a lot of security here and with good reason. It doesn't happen often, but you can see some crazy shit on the news, videos of thieves robbing small stores with guns, in the middle of the day. The news here is a lot more graphic they show people getting shot which we would usually never see in the U.S.
Everyone (and I mean it, no exaggeration) here has at least 1 story about getting personally robbed or kidnapped. The majority of my friends have been mugged at least once. 2 of my students were robbed at gunpoint. One in her own home, and the other on her way home in her new car at 11pm. She was carjacked while driving which was I thought was crazy. Luckily they only took the car, jewelry, and money from ATM. Other students were ripped off in various usually nonviolent ways.
Funniest Story I heard on this topic: My friend visited Venezuela and went to the local Burger King which had 3 armed guards, one with a shotgun. A FUCKING BK?!
Its dangerous and petty crime is more common than other places, but take this post with a grain of salt. Having lived in Bogota, Colombia for 7 months and had no problems, I don't think its any more dangerous than other big cities.
You take certain smart precautions and don't slip up, and that's all there is to it.
Posted by Joe Antenucci