Making light of Colombia’s crime problem

There was much debate in the comments on my article about “dangerous” travel destinations — most of which pertained to the current clean-up of Colombia’s city of Medellín. Having traveled to Colombia for three months during the spring of 2008, I believe Colombia as a country (particularly the dangers of traveling there) is largely misunderstood.

Take Mike Peters’s “Mother Goose & Grimm” comic strip that was published a week ago on January 2, 2009.

The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, which includes over 500,000 coffee producers, were so offended by Peters’ suggestion that it is suing Peters “for damage and harm, detriment to intellectual property and defamation.” The federation is seeking no less than 20 million dollars, claiming that the cartoon links Colombian coffee to organized crime and “attacks the national dignity and the reputation of coffee from Colombia.”

As a cartoonist, Mike Peters seeks controversy, but this type is harmful to our already skewed perception of Colombia. Peters’s cartoon suggests that Colombia is a dangerous place. I’m not clear about how drinking Colombian coffee could be considered a dangerous activity, but there’s definitely a sense of fear in this comic strip with regard to crime in Colombia.

While I’m all for freedom of speech, I think in this particular instance Peters could have picked a topic that he knew more about or discussed a country that he really understood. Instead, this particular cartoon defames a nation and offers an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of Colombia and its coffee for all the world to see. I just hope readers will know the difference between sarcasm and reality.

[via the Associated Press]