SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
MARY ROLDAN: "It has been interesting for me as an analyst of la Violencia and also the No Violence Movement in the oriente of Antioquia, where it was mayors who spearheaded the idea of transparency in government and humanitarian rapprochements to address the rising impact of armed violence in their regions, to note that mayors and municipal government in Colombia-- and Medellín and Fajardo are perhaps the clearest example of this-- have really assumed the vanguard of not only embracing the principles set out by the 1991 constitution, but actually putting them into daily practice in their administrations.
To give but two examples of reforms and programs the mayor initiated-- and they get less play in the press releases about his achievements, but I think have been really important-- I note the program spearheaded in 2006 by the mayor's office called "life is more peaceful if we talk about our differences, in which the city strove to increase tolerance and awareness for sexual differences and identities, and the agreement signed by the mayor's office in the Inter-American Development Bank also in 2006 to finance a pilot project to expand reproductive health services to adolescents and to create centers to provide counseling, information, and other services intended to combat a widespread problem-- characteristic not only of Medellín but throughout Latin America and the United States-- of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents.
Finally , the mark of a good leader is the ability to surround himself with able advisors. Fajardo did this in spades. His ability to reach youngsters in the comunas and those who, for decades, had felt excluded or marginalized from Medellín and who distrusted government and felt abandoned by it and to build bridges of understanding between these sectors and Medellín's entrepreneurial class was rooted, I think, in his very good judgment in selecting a team. They were distinguished by long careers, despite their relative youth, of having worked with the communities most in need of services and enjoying a legitimacy and trust among those people that had long proven elusive for regional administrations.
All of these reasons, perhaps, led a blogger in Long Island to post the following note on July 16, 2007. And I quote, 'If they can fight the blight in Medellín, why not in Hempstead Town?' Quote, "Perhaps it is a matter of design or a lack of desire, competence, or the lack thereof, versus the continuum of mediocrity that keeps a one-party government in power for more than a century. A lapse in vision, a paucity in gumption-- whatever it is that eludes the local honchos in America's largest township has not escaped the mayor of Medellín, Colombia.
Yes, Medellín, known more for its culture of drug cartels and its political strife and ever-present poverty than for the revitalization of brownfields and commitments to smart growth. Reinventing the urban landscape, an idea that has apparently bypassed the ones floated over suburbia we call Long Island, has slipped past town hall and trickled down to the means streets of Medellín. Maybe Town of Hepstead supervisor--'" I hope she is not in the room-- "'Kate Murray, whose apoplectic vision befits the cataracts of a bygone era of modern politics, can learn a thing or two from Medellín's mayor, Sergio Fajardo.'
I join the anonymous blogger from Hempstead Town in believing that Sergio Fajardo has much to teach us about turning cities around and establishing the lasting elements for transformation that has enabled Medellín to make the journey from fear to hope. Please join me in warmly welcoming Sergio Fajardo."
SERGIO FAJARDO: Muchas gracias. Thank you very much, Mary. I'm very pleased. I've never had such an introduction for our conference. And well, I'm very happy to hear what she said. I'm going to show you what she said is true.
And true means I am a mathematician. I used to be a practicing scientist. And I'm very glad to be here today in Cornell, very grateful for the people who invited me, in particular to all the Colombian students who are here who have been very kind and nice with me. And so for them, I will dedicate this presentation so that they can be proud of our country and the things that we do.
So I'm going to talk about the transformation of the city of Medellín. And so the first thing that we have to do is locate Medellín. Here is South America. Colombia is located in the upper-left corner here. Here, that's Colombia. Here is the state of Antioquia. And that's Medellín, which is the capital of the state of Antioquia. Bogotá is around here, Colombia's capital.
Colombia is an incredible country and a remarkable society. And I'm going to show you and talk about a little piece of Colombia, Medellín, but many of the things that I have to say here could be extrapolated to Colombia. So now that we know where we go, here's a picture of Medellín. We have big mountains on each side. We have a river that goes through the middle of a valley.
I love the city. I think it's very beautiful. It's called the Eternal Spring City. It's around a mile high, a little less than Denver, 50 meters below Denver. And as you can see, we have mountains.
And I'm going to be talking about many things in the city, but in particular, for example, these parts of the city here. These are very poor people who came into the city, coming from somewhere, and they ended up living in the very feral sector of the town. And most of the work that we did was directly headed to those communities.
Here's a picture of a book that we wrote when we finished with our administration. The title was "Medellín, from Fear to Hope." And we didn't copy anyone. That's the statement that we used to synthesize what we did. Fear is destruction, violence, and hope is related to opportunities. So that's a very nice picture.
And since I am a mathematician, I like to address issues the way mathematicians do. So what problems are we going to solve here? So let's concentrate on the problems that we want to solve. We still have a long way to have them solved. But whenever we make a statement, whenever we state a problem within the world of politics, we are making a political statement. So in Medellín, we have two huge problems that we want to solve, and I'm going to show you how we work on that direction.
The first problem-- we have a very unequal society. And we have a big historical social debt accumulated through years. Nothing extraordinary with that problem. Actually, this is common throughout Latin America. Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. And we think that most unequal region in the world, Colombia is one of the most unequal countries.
And Medellín is part of Colombia, so we have a very unequal society. And we are a state that as a problem that we want to solve inequality, together with the social debt that we have been accumulating through years. That's the first one that we want to solve.
Here is a map of Medellín. The map has some colors that are green. And where we have the lightest green-- let's see if I can work this out. Where we have these lightest green here is where we have the lowest Human Development Index in the city. And where we have the darkest green, here and here, we have the highest Human Development Index in the city. The divisions that we have there are called comunas.
So these are, for example, Comunas Uno and Dos, One and Two. These two, Popular and Santa Cruz. So the lightest, the lowest; the darkest, the highest level. Our challenge, dark in Medellín. So that means that the green would get darker everywhere. So that would translate into we will improve our Human Development Index. Keep your mind on this map throughout the presentation because you will see it very often.
Now, the second problem that we have to face is violence. It's a very, very deep-rooted violence. Very complex problem. It's associated with narco traffic that came into our town and through our town into Colombia with full force at the beginning of the '80s. We could say it was a bomb that was thrown at us in our society, and in particular, in Medellín. And that bomb has shaken the foundations of our city and the foundation of Colombia. But Medellín is the city that really received the full impact of that bomb that we received at the beginning of the '80s. And we still are going through the consequences of that bomb.
Now, if you put these two problems together, then we cannot say that this is common throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, the mixture of these two problems is unique. And we have no formula to follow. We don't have anyone who will tell us, "Do this. Then you will solve the problem," because I don't know of any experience where we could learn from directly taking those issues into account-- inequalities and violence.
Here's what Mary said. 1991, Medellín was the most violent city in the world. 381 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Very painful. In the year 2007, we had 26 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Last year, it went up a bit. I may tell you a little bit about that. But if we put together the last 20 years in our city's history, we had had about 70,000 homicides in the city. That's plenty of people being killed in our city due to a violence that began with narco traffic and, as I said, has shaken the foundations of our society.
I never like to see this picture here, but that's reality. Many people make comments about Medellín, and they have no idea where we are coming from. The dimension of the problem that we have had at hand is incredible. No other city in Colombia would even come close to what has happened in Medellín. Maybe Barrancabermeja, which is a middle-sized municipality by the Magdalena River. But what we have gone through is very painful. Very, very painful. I mean, I have no words to convey what has happened there. So those are the two problems that we have to solve.
So how do we solve the problems? I'll work towards giving you the formula to solving the problem. But there is a prerequisite the way we understand it. And it is we have to change the way we do politics. That's why I am here as a politician. I always add, a 21st century politician, and not as a mathematician. I just went to visit the math department just to see the math department.
But the reason is that we have to do something about politics because the way you get into power will determine the way you handle the public affairs. Those who pay to get into power, when they come into power, they come there to pay with public funds. And there go the opportunities that we need for our people.
So we have to change politics. I have no doubt that if we don't change it, then the problems that we have to solve-- we may have some advances. There have been and we have some good people in traditional politics. But traditional political parties in Colombia, they haven't been up to the challenges of our society. And that's a short story on how we got into politics.
Nine years ago, a group of 50 people in Medellín from different sectors of society-- myself, coming from the academic world, sciences; people from the cultural sector; from the business sector; from the NGOs sector; social organizations-- we got together. We were always concerned about what was happening in our society, the city, and the country. We tried our best in order to help them improve things. But after so many years saying how things should be, we realized, or we acknowledged, that regardless of what we said how society should be, there was a group of people-- politicians-- who take the most important decision in a society, whether we like them or we don't like them.
So after all these years, we did something that changed our lives, in particular mine. We said, then we are going to get into politics. And what did we do? We said we were going to create a civic independent movement outside the traditional political parties. We are going to get into elections. We are going to win those elections. We are going to get into power. And instead of saying, "It should be," this way, once we get into power, we are going to say, "This is the way it's done." That's the reason we got into politics. We were tired of saying how things should be, and we realized that the path, in order to change society, was to get involved in politics, something that I myself never dreamed of. And then we got into power and said, that's the way it is.
And I'm going to show you what we did in power. And this is continued with the current mayor of the city. But we have to go through this change of politics. I'm not going to give you the details about how we did things. Just a very simple way of describing our civic movement is a set of principles. For a mathematician, principles are axioms. A proposal for the city. All that we said that it should be, we put it together and said, this is what we want to have in our city.
And our way of doing politics, to briefly describe it, was like this. Our marketing strategy was the following. We said, people come out of their homes. So what we are going to do is go and find people, meet people. Nobody will charge you for walking. So we went out throughout the street, walked throughout the streets of Medellín, walking all over the place. So people would come to a soccer match. We will be at the entrance. They go to church. We will be at the entrance. They come to the university. We'll be at the entrance. Traffic lights, everywhere, we walked. But we established a relationship with the citizens in the city, which was not mediated by anyone. We got in touch directly.
Of course, it means a lot of effort. We did a lot of walking, but it was a very powerful way of getting into politics because we didn't pay a single peso for a person, for a leader. Moreover, we didn't pay for people's dignity. And when we got into power, we had the trust of people. We won the election. We didn't win the first election. I'd never been into any election for whatever. But we did very well, and then we continued. And in the year 2003-- October 26, 2003-- we won the election. We more than doubled the guy who came second. And we got into power. Now we had the challenge to rule the city, and we just were halfway of our challenge, which was we were going to transform the city.
So now let's move into how we solved the problem. And this is what I said. This is another view of the city from another part of town. And I have a formula for solving the problem. The formula roughly could be described as [? taking ?] put-- Mary already said it. I'll explain it a little more-- with something which is very important in what I'm going to say. The order of the factors alters the result.
And here is a picture that I like because it allows me to explain the essence of what we did. And we did it as we mathematicians want to do. Before you start solving the problem, try to understand it as clearly as you can. So here is a very intuitive explanation of what's going on with those two trees. One tree is the violence tree. The other tree is the inequalities tree. Very big trees, 30 years old. One is by the side of the other.
So we have to pull them out. Some people, for example, say we have to pull them out, and they immediately choose one of those trees and they start pulling it out. And we like to say, before you start working on the problem, understand it. And if we are going to pull out trees, why don't we think for a while about the roots of those trees-- how they are located-- so we can have a better understanding of the problem?
So for us, the roots are the way they look in that picture, which means the following. Let's say 30 years ago. So the trees began growing. And the roots would grow like that. And eventually, they got together. And after all these years, the roots of those two trees looked like this. We cannot tell which tree do these roots belong to. They are all tied up. So we could say that they have a common root. Therefore, if we are going to pull out those trees, what we would have to do is, we will have to put up those two trees simultaneously together because they have a common root.
If you go to pull out one tree, it won't work. So the intuitive idea would be, OK, now let's try to pull those two trees out simultaneously. So we split into two groups. Half goes to one tree. The other half goes to the other tree. And then we start pulling the trees simultaneously. We tried very hard, and it doesn't move. I mean, the trees don't move. Their roots are so deep, so entangled, in a way that we could not move those trees in spite of all the effort that we made. So we had to change.
And roughly speaking-- of course, this isn't intuitive as an explanation-- what we had to do was, let's get together all of us around one tree. And what we would like to do is pull that tree with all our energy, all people together around the same tree. And when we feel that it's moving a little bit, we immediately move on to the other tree. So we start pulling the other, and back and forth. Sort of moving like this, like that, like that, like that. So as close as being simultaneously as we could. That was the idea.
Now, the point was-- and mathematicians will always tell you-- which tree are you going to choose first? And the tree that we chose first-- and this is crucial-- was the violence tree. Why? Very intuitively, too. If we are in the middle of violence, nothing grows. Violence, we just require one or two or three bullets, and they will destroy the whole thing that we are building.
Social interventions, which is the way we pull out inequality trees, require at least four conditions. One, we have to know what type of social model of intervention we want to have. We have to think. We have to have the people who can do the social work associated with the social interventions. We have to have money. And we have to have time so that we will see what happens with interventions that we have. So violence destroys in a second, and social opportunities have all these conditions. So we knew perfectly well that we had to go directly at the first instance to the violence tree.
So that's the reason, and that's the intuitive explanation of the formula, as I mentioned, that Mary already talked about, which is we first have to reduce violence. And whenever we reduce violence, that improves people's condition. Less violence is better conditions for life. There's no argument about that. But immediately, we have to change or translate that improvement in the quality of life of people-- we feel better-- into social opportunities. That's the formula. And that's what we do.
When you do that in the [? world, ?] as I said, immediately-- immediately. You have to do it fast-- when you do that, the social interventions have a very powerful effect in reducing violence. So we have a virtuous circle, something like this. And that's what we have been doing.
So let me continue. And now let me tell you how we reduced violence, which is the first step. It's very complex. And I'll take some minutes to explain it carefully to you, beginning with the work with the police force. Whenever I explain this, I always add a couple of remarks. I never thought in my whole life that I would be working with a policeman. I never thought in my whole life that out of my mouth would the expression "We need more policemen."
But from the very first day, understanding the roots, understanding the problem that we had, we knew that it wasn't like, Mr. General, please go and stop violence in Medellín, then I'm going to do all these social interventions. We had to work together. And from day one, we [? set ?] to work together because we cannot allow any single space in the city where somebody different from the legal forces of the state would provide security. So we had that perfectly clear. And there were many parts of the city, as she described, where we didn't have the presence of the security forces of the state.
So we sat together. We looked at Medellín's map. And we designed a plan for every sector of the city, where we understood the social conditions that were going on in the sector. We knew the violence conditions that were going on in the sector. And we worked together, assigning responsibility to the police. And the mayor of the city is the chief commander of the police force in the city. So we worked together. I learned how to respect and recognize the work of the police force. It has problems. I know that it does have problems.
We respect human rights by conviction, not because somebody's telling us that they are important. Those human rights belong to our principles. And we worked together. And we respectfully worked with the police. And we showed this whole city, here are the police forces, and we have to respect them, and they are responsible for many things. But we began working with the police force in a way, I have no doubt, that had been very useful for the city of Medellín with problems.
If you want to have problems, I can give you as many problems as you want. If you want to point out the difficulties, I can give you as many difficulties as you want. But we improved. And that was always our approach. We had to keep improving. Improve, improve, improve. It's not perfect, but every day has to be better than the day before. And that's the way we acted.
Another way of saying that-- we were pragmatic and creative. We have to understand the problem. We have to know where we stand before we come up with a wonderful solution that doesn't work. But we have to make sure that we are heading into that solution, but we move forward every single day, step by step, getting better and better with all the problems that we have around. So the police force was very important for our work because it would be in spaces that we didn't have before.
Now, the reintegration process. This is quite a problem, and it goes as follows. The current national government, in the year 2003, had a pact and negotiated a peace process sort of with the paramilitary, which are the dealers, the narco traffickers, the head of narco traffic in Colombia. They had this pact with them. The pact said, roughly speaking, that the heads of narco traffic, the heads of paramilitary groups in Colombia, would stop. They will come into prison with some particular conditions, and the troops that they have-- the paramilitary forces-- would be mobilized.
Now, first, I want to make this observation. That happened by the middle of the year 2003. Actually, during the electoral contest, paramilitary groups in Medellín went to our headquarters to threaten people, telling them nobody could vote for me, for Fajardo. I, myself, said, let's not talk about this. We're going to win this election. We're not going to be threatened, and we are not going to make them the issue. We continued our path, and we won the election.
When we won the election, then the national government had negotiated that that didn't belong to our political platform. And they said, here you have 868 guys who have just demobilized. They work for this very powerful narco traffic guy. And we had them in our hands in Medellín December the 25th of the year 2003, just six days before we got into power.
We had two alternatives. One, we could have said, Mr. President, you signed with them. You take care of them. It wasn't part of our political program, and we never promised anything related to them. But then we took a decision which was very crucial. I think it was very fortunate and very difficult, which was, what we are going to do is we're going to make sure that these guys are reintegrated into our society. Very difficult because I'm taking in my hands, as mayor of the city, a responsibility that I didn't create. But why did we do it? Because we knew the roots of our tree.
I'll give you an example that illustrates why we did it to understand the dimension of the things that we had at hand. A typical guy, one of those demobilized, 25-year-old guy, a man. Most of them are men in the violent world of Colombia-- everywhere, actually. He's 25 years old. He comes here. He tells me, here's my gun. Now, if you look back at that guy, he went into the paramilitary forces 10 years before, when he was 15. He had just gotten up to fifth grade, and he had grown up in Medellín, in neighborhoods where he had been growing up around violence. He saw everything around him. And that's the guy who is just sitting here by my side. I said, what are we going to do with him?
So why did we decide to take that group and work with them? Because that's the result of the violence that we have had. That's the result of that bomb that we had in Medellín. And that's what grew up in our city-- painfully, but he is from our city. And he is there, and we have to take him into account.
So what did we do? We said, we are going to put all our efforts in order to make sure that this guy becomes part of our society once again. Again, it was a political decision. I could have said, you'll do whatever you want. But we thought about it very carefully and said, we have to solve this problem. Unfortunately. I wish I didn't have to go through this. But these guys were from our city, grew up here. For so many years, we have had these violent conditions, and we had to act.
So we designed a reintegration process that has the following features. It wasn't designed. We had to come up with the design of this program. And it has the following characteristics. First, psychological attention to every single one of them. We began with 868 before I got into power. Now, after a year and a half, we had more than 4,000 in this condition. So we knew, and we decided we're going to work with them. And the first step was psychological attention to every single one of them.
But of course, we didn't have a group of people waiting somewhere in the world, saying, we are ready. You just call us, and we will take care of your 4,000 guys, and we will give psychological attention. We had to build a team of people. We had incredible quality people. And we began working with them. Why psychological attention? Because they grew up in the middle of the destruction. And they had to be paid attention one by one. It's not that we have a psychology therapy group. You sit all of them here. I talk very nicely to them, and they go out beautiful human beings. One by one. It's painful because what we are seeing is what happened.
So we did that. Then social intervention with them so that they could live with their family, and they could live with the community, now in a different condition. The second step was, this guy, 25 years old, 10 years fighting, and he has just studied up to fifth grade. So many times, people say, give him a job. What job are you going to give him? What is he good for? For nothing, basically. He has abilities, but he never developed them.
So what we had is, we came up with an incredible educational program one by one so that we will try to get the best out of each single individual so that they would develop some abilities to be part of society. Difficult-- well, you can imagine how difficult it may be. Of course, we can cannot put this 25-year-old guy back in school with the fifth grade kids. We had to come up with something very different. Again, fortunately, we have talented people, devoted people that began working on the whole problem.
Things that happen when you do that. For example, when they go back, they are in their neighborhood, but now they are reintegrated persons. Now they are not paramilitary. But what happens with their fellow youngsters around the place where they live? The huge majority Medellín has-- 2 and 1/2 million people. 4,000 is very minimal compared to the size of the city. But if you have 4,000 who want to destroy, that's very difficult to handle. So these guys who had been there had never been into the legal world, and they had no opportunities. So they would immediately think, then I have to be a paramilitary in order to have received attention from the state.
And of course we could not accept that as an answer, so we created the problem youth with a future, working with those who are there, who are at the entrance door to the legal world, helping them to come up with opportunities. At the same time, we had to do more around Medellín. If we have had 70,000 homicides in the city for the last 20 years, we have plenty of victims. So we began working with the victims. So this was our reintegration program. Controversial? As much as you want, because we are working with people who were criminals, and then we are trying to bring them back to society. And that's very difficult.
Summarizing. At the end, we had more than 4,000. Think of 4,000 guys in this condition. We claim that 10%, 15% of that group never complied with the rules that had been fixed for them. But 85% at least [? were ?] [? moving ?] and had been moving in the right direction with us. We are taking them out of that world. That being said, we had a problem of size 4,000. It had been reduced to a problem of 600. And 3,400 had been coming out of that world, and for the first time, the state, we as a society, are moving them away from the world that they had been for several years.
What happens in the streets of Medellín? Violence is reduced. Why? Obviously, we took 3,400 out of the streets. So if they are with us, they are not doing things that we know what they did in the city of Medellín. So some people would say, I know, but what happened in Medellín has to do with the paramilitary. I said, you are very smart. It's obvious. The national government negotiated with them. And what did they negotiate? You cannot kill, and you cannot do what you were doing. That's all.
So what we did was, take this as an opportunity, take people out of the violent world in the city, and immediately come up with the social interventions. As simple as that. Then you can tell me, but there are some who are doing it. Sure, they are. 600. But we've reduced the size of the problem. And that's what I say. We keep reducing the violent world, keep taking chunks apart of violence, but we have to come up with opportunities. That's the summary of what we have done.
Problems? I can give you as many problems as you want. But improvement, quite a lot. Difficult. Very difficult. Did I enjoy that? Sure, I did in the sense that I saw how we managed to change the conditions of very many people in the city, and that gave us an opportunity to come up with the social opportunities. Painful? Many times. Sometimes very sour because we are dealing with very difficult criminals. Very difficult criminals. But that's why we got into power. Not to analyze the problems, but to solve the problems and work on them every single second of our days. Being the leader of the city, we had to dedicate our efforts to do all those problems, in particular this, which was a very difficult one.
But now let's come to the good part of it, or the other part of it, which is we have to come up with the social opportunities. And the social opportunities-- the statement that defined what we understood by social opportunities was, education, understood in a broad sense-- I'll explain to you what it means, "broad sense"-- has to be the engine for social transformation. That was our bet. That's what we said we were going to do in Medellín. We had been doing it. As I said, the current mayor has continued the path. And we bet with all our energy into making education understood in a broad sense the engine of the social transformation.
Beginning with the statement that describe our work in the city, which was Medellín, the most educated. Compromiso de toda la ciudadía. That was our symbol. That's the sign we put everywhere. And every single day when I was a mayor, I was talking about education in a broad sense. Explain it to people, this is the way we are going to move. It's not like having a very good secretary of education or minister of education-- we had a very good one, of course-- but it's telling society that this is our main challenge, and that's how we are going to move. And that we did.
So I want to emphasize that. Usually, we said we have to have a very good minister of education in the country. Definitely. But one thing is to have a very good minister of education, and another thing is telling society, this is the engine that is going to lead the social transformation of our society. It's at a different level. And that's what we did. And we are very proud of that because that's exactly what we had been saying. All life should be like this. Education in a broad sense should be the engine of social reformation.
I don't know how many columns I go down saying, it should be. Now that we are empowered, it is going to be. And I'm going to show you a little part of what we did. But it would illustrate what it means to get into power, what it means to come there knowing where you are going and how you mobilize a whole society within the problems that we have.
Some basic concepts before I'll start showing you what we did. Let me just explain a little bit. I'm going to show you just four components of the intervention that we had in the city. We had many more, but I'm going to talk just for a second about culture of entrepreneurship, about urban internal interventions, public education, and new public spaces for knowledge. I'll show you those four components of our program. But before I start doing that, I'm going to give you some key concepts that would allow us to understand what comes afterwards.
What we want is we know this perfectly well, and we have it very clearly in our movement. We want to build on equality of [? opportunities' ?] base in our society in order to be able to talk about freedom and base of equality of opportunities for every single human being in our society. For example, regarding education, which is the raw material that we all need in order to develop our abilities as part of society, our challenge is that we have the highest quality of education. But the access to that highest quality of education doesn't depend on the color of your skin, the fortune of your parents, or the place where you were born. It should be a right. Everyone in our society should have the right to receive that basic material that we need in order to be a free human being.
And whatever we do-- whatever we do in order to fight against social inequality-- has to go through that door. If we don't go through the door of education in the sense that I'm saying, it wouldn't work. There may be some who have the ability to take a shorter path, but very few. But if we're going to transform society, we have to go through that door. We have that perfectly clear, and we are going to work in that subject.
A few more comments. Violence has very many negative consequences. That's obvious. But there is one that is very damaging for society. When we are in an atmosphere in a context of violence, the violence splits us into smaller groups. We end up just talking to people who are like us. We reduce the sector of the city that we use. And immediately, you start seeing people of other places in the city as foreigners. We are afraid of going to this part of town. I would never see people like this. So society is completely split into small atoms.
Now, that has several implications. One, violence destroys citizenship because we cannot take care of others. There is no solidarity when we are just trying to survive ourselves. We become more individuals, which is opposed to be more citizens. And after many years, we were a city completely split into smaller groups, that we didn't talk to each other. That's terrible if you want to build citizenship, which is a challenge that we have as building a better society. So we knew that we have to get together once again. We have to talk to each other to see each other once again within the city. So we have to destroy the walls that separated us.
And how do we do it? We have to do it in the public space. And what we did was we built new public spaces so that we can get all of us together once again to be citizens in the city of Medellín. Now, the purpose of the intervention that we had was along the following lines. We said, we are going to change the skin of the city.
So what we are going to do is, we are going to build these public spaces in those places of the city where we had the highest violence rate, which is, of course, related to the places in the city where we had the lowest Human Development Index. So we knew that we were going to change the skin of the city. Where we had the destruction, we came up with this wonderful infrastructure that we built. Wonderful in the sense that it followed the following line. The most beautiful things in our society to the humblest people in the city. Not just because you are poor, whatever you are given then, you are better off because you had nothing, and if [? I ?] give you something, you are better off. No. We are going to give you the best of society. And that's a message which goes in the direction of fighting inequality.
And every single place that we built had to be related to education in the broad sense. The building of opportunities coming up into people so that they could develop as human beings according to their abilities and their capabilities. That's what we did. And that was what we had in mind.
And of course, architecture came into playing a very important role because it was the expression of the new city that we want to build, and we had a very strong urban transformation in the city of Medellín. And architecture was a key component in a social transformation. And that's the difference about the use of architecture in many other places. So now let's take a look.
I'm going to show you some of the physical interventions that we had. There are the concepts that I just gave you. And you will see how they respond to what I said. Whatever we do had to do with peaceful coexistence and more opportunities. Always. Always. Whenever we do something, it had to be related to the original problem.
So for example, we built what we call library parks. What are library parks? Spaces where we have free internet, computers, books, but we have the barrio room, a salón de barrio, so the place where the community could go through what has happened through the cultural pressures that they have. There will be a very nice space there. We had a wonderful auditorium so that people will get together. The community would meet in the best place that they could meet, not in a shack somewhere.
We had a place for the entrepreneurship program that we had. We had a program which is called Culture of Entrepreneurship, which means the ability to transform knowledge in a creative way into a productive activity. And we begin with the poorest people in town. They don't have the knowledge that you have here in Cornell, but most of them have talent. So our challenge was how to transform talent in a creative way into a productive activity. And we have a space for entrepreneurship in the poorest sectors of town, and that's the place where we developed and we put into action all the programs that we had related to an entrepreneurship program in the city. I've been talking to some friends today at lunch about entrepreneurship, and it had to do with that.
At the same place, we had this wonderful, marvelous place for kids under five years old that don't have the public facilities for developing as early as they are born. She mentioned a program that usually is not mentioned. We've had a very, very aggressive, very creative program, first of all, rescuing and supporting and bringing in women into the development of society.
And in particular, one program about avoiding adolescent pregnancies with something very creative that was supported and has received several distinctions about the way we did. But once we have a kid, then we have to take care of the kid. We shouldn't have that many kids. That's what I think. Everyone is free to do it, but at least we will put all the information, all the conditions to prevent unwanted kids. You will decide how many you have. I hope very few. But once again, once the kid is around, we will have to take care of the kid. So we have a program for under five years old.
We had a place, for example, for older people. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
SERGIO FAJARDO: Elderly. I forgot. For the elderly because it has been changing. [SPEAKING SPANISH] Now there are all these expressions to say old people. But anyway, elderly. So we have--
AUDIENCE: Elderly is nicer than old people. I said, elderly is nicer than old people.
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. No, I don't-- you understand what I mean. Just an example. I'm getting older, so no problem. So we built library parks in those places in the city we had seen the face of violence and destruction. Take a look.
This is the first one. Everything we did was related to the Human Development Index. We went to the places in town where people had needs. We didn't go to the places where politicians would traditionally go because we didn't negotiate support changing the interests of the city into political interests. We were free. We didn't negotiate anything. So we could go to where people needed things.
But the first library park that I'm going to show you is called the España Library Park. This is at the edge of a mountain. You're going to see the picture. At that point, we had to buy 140 houses. Quite a pain to buy all these houses. But now we tore them down, and we've begun building the building. So here it comes. And there it is. Now, that's the library park that we built at the edge of a cliff. Very steep.
In all these tents that you see here are little businesses that we created with our entrepreneurship program within that sector of the town. Most of them women, who, for the first time in their lives, came out of their homes. We gave them the opportunity to train them. We supported them with microcredit. And there they were with their business that they had never had before. That's what I meant when I talked about this afternoon at lunch.
There's a picture. Well, not only that, but the city and the architect won the most important architectural and design project at Ibero-America, given by the Sixth Ibero-American Architecture and Urbanism Biennial in Portugal, May, 2008. So if you want to see the most important architecture work in Ibero-America, you have to go to the poorest town, to the poorest barrio in Medellín, Colombia, and you have to go there to see a library park. It's not in the most beautiful part of town. It's the poorest part of town. That's where you have to go if you want to see this incredible place.
So do you understand what I mean when we say we reduced violence and we immediately come up with the opportunities? Architecture comes here, and we have an eruption. People would never believe that this could happen to them.
Now, for all the things that I'm going to show you here, there was a previous work with the social work of people that we had in the city, bringing people together so that when we ended up with the building, the building belonged to the community. It wasn't that we built the building and said, come on. Come in here and enjoy it. From the very beginning, they were part of what we were doing. So when we got there, people were very happy. We had the King of Spain come into Medellín, and we took him to this place. And he didn't tell me, Sergio, shut up. He told me, Sergio, please tell me. And I did it. Some of you [? understood ?] [INAUDIBLE].
That's how it looks from here. That's a place that nobody would ever dare to go. And now it's shining in the city.
The second one in another part of town. Here is the building. Here's the building. And I like this picture very much. Whenever I see that picture, I am very happy because that girl's smile there is a symbol of what we have achieved. Hadn't we had this, this girl would have been [INAUDIBLE] in the streets. And what has happened in the streets of Medellín for so many years? Destruction. And now she goes to a park library to do whatever she wants. But whatever she's doing, she's laughing. And that's very crucial because we have to stop so that we don't get the kids, 25 years old, being criminals. But we open up a new path so that they would follow a different path in life so they don't come into the entrance door into the league of war. And that's very important, and it helps what we are doing.
We have the talent. And we don't have to go anywhere in the world to find a brilliant architect. We have them, as there are in many other places, but we are very proud of the ones that we have. So for example, at this time, I'm sure there should be some elderly dancing here. I learn quickly. Dancing there in the program that we have for elderly people that they would have aerobics. I forgot-- my English is rusty now. I'm sorry. And they will be there.
Many policemen around? Zero policemen. Barbed wire in Medellín? Zero barbed wire in Medellín. It's open to everyone. And the fifth one in another part of town. This is a different neighborhood.
Now, those were five library parks. Something to be added. We had the idea. We bought the land. We had the competition for the architectural design. We had to hire the builders. We did it. We put it to work. And we said, Medellín, here it is. We were talking about, we should have this in Medellín. There they are, five. And currently, the new administration, there's going to be three more along the same lines.
We built 10 wonderful schools in the poorest parts of town. Let me show you so that you can see it. This, again, is at the top here, at the very top of the mountain, the northern part of the city. That was the place. And we built this school. You see our kids there. Take a look at the houses up here. One on top of the other, very crowded. And this is the school that they had there. They could never believe that they would have that school because the poorest kid in town would go to a school that, at least physically, would be as good of a school that the richest kid in town would go to. That's a very powerful message.
Some people will tell me about, who said that that would improve the quality of education? And I would say, I have perfectly clear that if I walked into a beautiful building, it doesn't make me a better mathematician. But I know that the self-esteem of the kids that go to this school is increased in such a way that these kids would learn mathematics much faster, much better than they would if they didn't have this. So we say that the quality of education begins with the dignity of the space that our kids go to. And this is a very powerful message. Remember, we are fighting against inequality and trying to have peaceful coexistence. This is very powerful in our neighborhoods. That's one.
This is the second one. Again, very high up in the mountains, where the poorest people live, because when they get into the city, they had no place, and they had to climb all the way up to the mountains, and they build their own house somehow. Another one. Comuna 13, this one. Another part of Comuna 13, the one in [? particular ?] over there. Another part of Medellín. This kid never thought in his life that he could be sitting there, reading a book in a school like the one that he's attending right now. Another one. Another one. Another one. Another one.
Whenever I show this picture to kids, they all say, wow! Here, it wouldn't be exciting. But for them to see these computers and know that the poorest kids of town have those computers at school, something that makes them very happy, and me too. An arrow for every school. And then you start putting together all the arrows that I have shown throughout the map. I'll continue.
We've renovated many schools. I hope President Obama will renovate very many schools. Not only just highways, but the social infrastructure of the country. I like him very much. And I didn't like the one before. That's no offense to anyone, whoever you think, whatever you think.
This is a very good example. I like this very much. This is a school that was located in a neighborhood in Medellín called Barrio Boyacá las Brisas. It's called Jose Asunción Silva, this school. And this is the way it looked like. Typical. Here, we have a wall, a fence, and barbed wire. And look what this guy is doing here. Now, more than two years ago, the kids in this same corner now will have this. Do you understand what I mean when I say we are changing the skin of the city? We changed the skin.
Now let's go through a very elementary exercise. You don't have to say anything. Can you imagine what a girl who used to go to the school that they had before feels when she comes to the school today? What does her mother feel when she drops the girl at the entrance of the school in the previous school and the one that we have now? What does the teacher feel when she was teaching at the former building, and now she's teaching at a wonderful blackboard? What do people in the community feel when they change one building for another building? Now, for example, the guy doesn't go to the tree. He comes close to his house.
Now, inside every school, we have a quality pact. So we work, and we have to improve mathematics. It was going to take us several years to improve the mathematic quality in Medellín in Colombia. Here, you have to do a lot of work in mathematics, too, in this country. But we had a pact. So we will be working on mathematics, language. We will be working with the teachers, and we will be improving the quality of education in the standard terms. But that goes inside. And we had a program for every single one.
I'll show you more pictures. For example, this is another school that we had in town. It looks like a prison. Well, take a look at how it looks like right now. More than a year and a half ago. It's different. And it was designed for that corner. We didn't have a blueprint that we will build throughout the country. It was just designed for that community in that corner. And you can imagine what happens there. You can look through the glass. That has a very deep impact. Some people say, ah, no, but that's a building. The person who says that doesn't understand the whole meaning of our transformation.
Another one. It used to be like this. Now it is like this. This was the restaurant. Now the restaurant looks like this. Every arrow is a school that we touched in a different part of the city.
The entrepreneurship culture. I gave you the definition. I just gave you an example. Let me show you the physical part of it. Every social project had a physical component to change our way of viewing things. So for example, this used to be a corner in a barrio of Medellín called Manrique. That's the corner. You can imagine the trouble that we went through in order to buy this house. It was very painful. But that doesn't matter because it looks like this today. What's that? That's this place of entrepreneurship that we have in that neighborhood.
So it's beautiful. People go throughout it, and they know, throughout the place, and say, this is our place for entrepreneurs. And it's always crowded with people getting involved into entrepreneurship at the lowest level. But it's very powerful because it's attached to the work opportunities. That's what we are building on.
Those are called Cedezos. And actually, if you look at it here, you will see this letter E, which is the symbol for our general program Culture of Entrepreneurship, Culture E in Medellín. We are creating a culture about entrepreneurship. So one, two. One more. More. The Cedezo. Here's the orange color that would--
This is something beautiful. It's a building. It's a cultural center which has a Cedezo included in the cultural center in one of the poorest sectors of the town because it used to be the dump. And it was designed by the most famous architect in Colombia, who just died. This is the Parque of Entrepreneurship. Now, this is for the university level. So people from different universities would get there to create their businesses, but at a very different level.
I'll continue showing you things. This is something that I love. This is the Interactive Science Park that we built in Medellín. It's called the Parque Explora. And here it is, four red boxes. One box is the Colombia box, the biodiversity box in Colombia, telecommunications, and physics. And we also built an aquarium on the corner of this beautiful place that we didn't have before. I'm very proud to say that it is there because I am a scientist. And I always said, we have to have a science place for everyone in the city so that being able to be in touch with knowledge doesn't have to be related to the social class that you belong to.
It's amazing to see how many people go to this place every single day. We have kids from all schools all over the place and doing [? wickets. ?] Whole families would go there to spend the day in there. But those are places where we have peaceful coexistence. We have never had any violent incident. And we have had crowds going there. And we had kids getting in touch with knowledge directly, regardless of the social condition. Nothing like this existed before. Have you been there, Mary, recently? OK.
This place, we built the whole public space. And it changed, of course, completely what we had in that sector. That's inside. That's the aquarium that we built. Building an aquarium in a city like Medellín is very difficult, I'll tell you. It's very, very difficult to put all those fishes there. It's an incredible adventure. But there they are.
This is the botanical garden right across the street from the Interactive Science Park. This is the way it looked like before we got into power. Now here's how it looks like today. The entrance is free. You cannot imagine how many thousands of people come every weekend to be there with their families. But we take them out of the context that they were living in, where the guy was drinking, the woman was locked inside, and the kids were in the streets. And you know what happens when you put all of them together late at night. Well, they would come as a family to a place like this, and they will never destroy it. Very carefully handled by everyone.
That's another building that we built. For example, this was the 19th century house that we had in the city. The older ones have been destroyed. So it was in ruins. So we got the house for the municipality, and we built a house for kids, and they would go there for reading. And now it looks like this. This is the cultural center that I mentioned to you in this neighborhood, designed by-- those who know about architecture in Colombia-- he's the most famous Colombian architect, from Bogotá. He died. A wonderful human being. This was his last building. Very beautiful building in the middle of a very poor sector.
Now, I'm just about to finish, so don't worry. This is the last part of my presentation. I'm going to show you what an urban integral intervention is all about. Roughly speaking, it means the following. We have a sector of the town, and we are going to put all the development tools together simultaneously in that space so that when we reduce violence, immediately we come up with all the development tools put together in the place so that people will see, as we said, change violence for opportunities. And that's exactly what we did in this sector of town.
So where did we go? The first one that we did was in the poorest sector of town, Comunas Uno and Dos, from Medellín. The lightest green, there we went. And I'll show you what we did. That's the sector. Whatever color you see in there is a social intervention that we had. And I'm going to take you from the top of the hill down here to the river, showing you some of the physical interventions that we had throughout this sector of the town. So at the highest point-- it's a little higher than the point where the arrow is pointing-- we built the school that I already showed you, at the very top. Then the park library that I already showed you. Some pictures from it [? inside. ?]
I'm very proud of this. This is a place where nobody would dare to go. And now, at night, it shines. It's a library park. It's a very powerful message that we're sending our people. We said Medellín, the most educated in the broad sense. You understand now the broad sense? All these components to get put together.
Then the health center. We built the health center here. You can imagine what happened there when, in that community, at 12 o'clock at night, a kid got sick. In order to get a kid from there to a hospital, it was quite a problem. So we had this health center located in there. The design is not beautiful. We didn't design it. So that's why I don't show it. But it's very functional, I mean.
Then entrepreneurs. That's the place for entrepreneurship in that sector. So school, park library, health center, entrepreneurship. A school that we renovated. The other one we built. This one, we renovated. It used to be like that outside. Now it is like this. You see? Take a look at the houses up there so that you can have a feeling where we were located and what type of neighborhood we are dealing with. Public space all over, changing conditions. For example, this one, that's the Metrocable. You see the mountains up there? It used to be like that. Now it is like this.
This is a very important space for the elderly, for the very young. It's a beautiful place that they get to get in the middle of a barrio called Granizal that nobody would dare to go there. This used to be the soccer field. Now it is like this. It's the best synthetic grass field that we have in the city. You cannot imagine how many kids would spend the day there playing soccer and doing all good things that they can do there. And that's the way it looks at night.
This is something that is very important to tell you. This is a bridge that we built. We are not going to win the engineering prize in Colombia for bridges, but this is very important in the social sense. What we did here is very powerful. We have two neighborhoods here, La Francia and Andalucía. You can see the houses. In the middle, we have a creek. I always tell the same story, but I think it's a good one. If we had that creek in Switzerland, it would be something wonderful, paradise. But we have it there. So people have come. They have invaded all the space. So whenever we have rain, which is very often, then they are in a high-risk sector of town. It's a complete mess.
Now, not only that, but some years ago, nobody from this neighborhood could go into the other neighborhood. We have a gang from one side and a gang from another side, and I don't know how many people were killed in that part of town. We built a bridge so people can walk from one side to the other, and nothing happens. That's a very powerful image because we were building bridges in our society. As I mentioned, violence restricts ourselves. And we were building bridges within our city in places like this, with all the difficulties that it has. But socially, that building has something very crucial for the city of Medellín and for these communities.
Another bridge. More public space. Public space. Public space. This is something very interesting that you are going to see here. This is public housing. It looks like that. Take a look here. So for example, in this house, if you can call that a house, we had a woman who had been there for 25 years. She came from the countryside, and she built her house there by the creek. Now, we have to tell that woman that we are going to move her from there, and we are going to build something where she could go on living.
The first thing that we have to do is we have to buy her house. Now, how much would you pay for this house? She has no property rights. And we have to buy it. So we have to talk to the woman, explain everything. We show her a render of what is going to happen. But of course, she's not going to understand that there's going to be a building there. She has never seen anyone. She cannot understand this. So we have this group of wonderful people that has been throughout all these interventions talking to her.
Now, we have to take her from there. We have to find a place for her to leave while we build the new building. And then we have to take her to the building and teach her how to live there, which is not trivial. So now this woman lives here in a penthouse. Now, everyone around wants to live in a penthouse now, but nobody had seen this that was designed by our architects, the urban planners. They studied the place. And instead of moving people from that place to another part of town, they came up with a solution within the same space. We cleaned up the creek. We improved the public space. And we solved the problem within the place where they were located. They have already won a prize for this type of intervention.
So it looks like this. It looks like that. And we are building buildings all over. There were zero buildings when we got there. Now it's getting like that. You can see how crowded it is. The problem that we had at hand-- of course, if you look at that-- and those who are experts in violence, you can imagine-- the living conditions, how much of the violence that we have is related to those living conditions. People who are living just side by side, in a very crowded place, packed. It's very difficult.
I'm just going to finish here. So this was the street that we had under the Metrocable, which was a public transportation system that opened up the door to get into the place. It was a very important intervention, public transportation through these cable cars. And we had this street down there. Perfect. No holes, like most streets in Medellín. The streets in Medellín are very good. But no cars. So what we did was we had this, and then we changed it into this. We increased the public space. We reduced the size of the street for the cars that we will have there.
And we used to have 18 commercial spaces there. And now we have 249 in the same place. Entrepreneurs. And we opened up the opportunities. We changed the landscape, the physical space, and we created the conditions so people could develop themselves and do their business here. Now, if you go there today, I'm sure you are going to find it as clean as it is in the picture. And people are very proud of what they have already.
After all, this is a sample of what we have done. And I hope you have understood why we said that Medellín has gone from fear to hope. Thank you very much.
I can take questions, as many as you want.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for coming, and thanks for this incredible talk. How many years were you mayor?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Four.
AUDIENCE: And you did all that work?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Yeah, we did.
AUDIENCE: That's amazing. Thanks for taking care of the elderly.
I have a very simple question. [? It's just a ?] minor question, I guess. I can imagine, back when the drugs were [INAUDIBLE], that the police were getting paid off. How did you deal with getting the police on your side that might not get [? paid off? ?]
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. The first thing is the police force in Colombia is a national government affair. I mean, we don't have local police. It's a national police. And we have gone through several stages in the last years in Colombia. And overall, the police has improved. We have cleaned up the police force. Many were killed during the worst years. But we have a much better police force. And the way, now, that we work there, we work with people. We said, let's make everything public. This is the general. Here is this guy. And we are going to work together. I will tell this to the whole city and said, we have to trust them. So we begin by saying, I trust you.
And we have this work plan. And we were committed to respect every single policeman or policewoman in the city of Medellín. Most of them reacted very well because when you respect people, when you recognize them as human beings, most of the people react well. So that's what we did. I'm sure there were some who are related to all these things, definitely. But I'm sure the police force in Medellín behaved quite well compared to what we used to have. And we gave them all our due respect.
AUDIENCE: Thanks very much for coming. I have three questions, sorry. Have you ever considered being the mayor of Bogotá? And because [INAUDIBLE].
SERGIO FAJARDO: No.
AUDIENCE: The second one is, do you agree with the mayor re-election or [INAUDIBLE] re-election? And the third one is, are you considering to be a presidential candidate now that the [INAUDIBLE] Santos [? are ?] candidates?
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. The first one, I never considered being mayor of Bogotá. I lived in Bogotá for very many years. My kids are from Bogotá. But I'll never consider it. Second one, I think having the possibility of having mayors being consecutively re-elected-- because a mayor could be re-elected, but you had to step off for four years at least-- I think it's a good idea. And I don't think we changed, in Colombia, the rules so that the president was allowed to be re-elected.
Now it's under discussion if he could be re-elected once more. I think it's a terrible mistake. I think it would be extremely harmful for Colombia because he would be destroying many of the institutions of democracy-- and democracy's not just voting. There are many conditions that leaders have to take into account beyond having everyone telling in society, you should do this. So I think it's a terrible mistake.
And the third one, actually, we have been for a year working towards the presidency.
AUDIENCE: For this [? year? ?]
SERGIO FAJARDO: And before-- sure. And we have been moving from what we did here, and we are building it throughout Colombia. And we are doing quite well. I don't appear in the newspapers that you read, but we have been building this very powerful movement throughout the country. And next year, in May, I'm going to be the president of Colombia.
I hope you vote for me.
AUDIENCE: To what extent did you base your strategy on the strategies that were successful in other cities, or lessons that other cities had learned? And also, do you think your strategy is something that can be replicated in other cities, or is it particular to Medellín?
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. Now, as in science, we have learned from many others who have been doing work all over the place. In Bogotá, for example, we had good examples, with Antanas Mockus, in the Quipama losa, for example. But they were solving very different problems. That's something that people have to understand because the violence that they had was very different. But we learned some things from them and from other places. Barcelona, for example, is a good example about a city transformation. In Brazil, and so on. So we have learned from many others. As in mathematics, whenever we work today, we're building on a giant's shoulders. That was said by Newton, perhaps? So it's the same thing here.
Now, there are some things that we have done here that can be replicated. There are somewhat universal principles. For example, don't take people's money away. Don't be corrupt. That applies everywhere. There are some social interventions, like the ones that we have had here, that could be built in many different places. Of course, the size matters. And the problems that people may have are different. But for example, I'm sure that these urban integral interventions could be replicated in many places throughout the country or many places even in this country. Put all the development tools together within a space where you have the worst conditions.
Now, what do you have to put in there? It depends on what happens there. But there are some few things that the spirit of them could be replicated. The size and all this, it could be different. But I think we can learn from what we have done in Medellín, as we learn from other places. And of course, we have to come up with solutions that depend on the city or the place where we are going to work. Another question?
AUDIENCE: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Some few things, yeah. But don't tell me which ones. No, I have learned some, but we haven't had time. I mean, once we got in there, we didn't have a single second to stop. We knew what we wanted to do. We were prepared to get into power because we knew what we wanted to do. I had no experience, and my team had no experience in the public sector. [? But ?] people prepare from different sectors, as I mentioned at the beginning. But we built an incredible team, and we were concentrated in what we had to do.
So we didn't have time to breathe. We just said, we are going to do this, and we did it. We had everyone on top of us, looking at what we were doing. And every single day that I move, everyone is saying, let's see when is he going to fail. When are they going to fail? Because we have become a political menace in Colombia in the sense that we are showing that this can be done differently. And they are attacking me from all over because this is our power. And we delivered. And we showed that it could be done. So we made a few mistakes, some things that we could do differently. But overall, we are very proud of what we did.
How do I do this? OK. You, and then you.
AUDIENCE: How did you get the funds to do all this building? And in such a short span of time, that's a lot of work that could be done. And who did you get even the support of everyone involved in this process?
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. First of all, beginning with the latest comment, what we did, we won the elections, and we won people trust. The city of Medellín wanted to see us there, and they knew what we were going to do for it, and we kept that trust throughout all the government due to the transparency that we had handling public affairs. And we showed the city that things could be done.
So we kept the pace, and people are following us. And we managed to revive the self-esteem, the pride of the people in Medellín, saying, we can do these things. And they were very honored that we were doing this. So we always had the citizen support throughout the four years. But we worked very hard on it, saying, this is what we are doing. We always showed that, in spite of the problems, there was a solution that we could move towards that solution. And people saw that we did it. So that was crucial because we always had the support of the vast majority of people in the city.
Now, the resources. Our city resources. I mean, our public resources in the sense that-- the first thing that we did once we came into power was to raise the land tax. And it was quite a raise. But we did something that people appreciated. [? We ?] said, every single peso that you give us, we will translate it into something like this. Here are your taxes. We had that statement in all the places where we went to. Here are your taxes. So we managed to tell people that they were giving us the money, and what they gave us, we translated into something very good for everyone. So people paid taxes. We increased taxes. We have a public utilities company in Medellín which is an example of a public company that gives you social benefits. So that's part of the [? richness ?] that we have. And a very basic thing, very simple, we didn't steal a single peso.
AUDIENCE: But how about the judicial system when you were taking or increasing [? land? ?] Of course, you must have had some people who said, no, we don't want to increase taxes, or, this is our land, or certain little mafias.
SERGIO FAJARDO: We had the social workers for every intervention that we had. We had a team that would be handling the community affairs. We, for example, did things like this. At the beginning, in another part of town, they were against something that we wanted to do. So we had our group of people explaining to the community why we wanted to do something and how it would look like. So we asked them to organize themselves so that they will keep an eye on the things that we were doing to make sure that what we were saying that we were going to do we did. And they would follow us step by step.
So for example, during Christmastime, they would say, please don't build anything during Christmastime because we will lose the people who would come here to buy. I said, we will stop. We had all these agreements. And they followed us. And whenever they saw something that wasn't going the way it was supposed to be, they immediately would shout. They would scream. They will call the journalists. And it was annoying for us, and we can arrange that, but we did it.
And it ended up being a group of citizens that now they are the ones who are taking care of the place that we built. But that's the social work that we were doing with everyone. For example, when we were buying those houses up there, the 140, we went to explain to people what we were going to do. And there's a law that allows us, for the social benefit, to go to places and buy the places for the social benefit.
Some people didn't want to sell their house. That's painful. But we had the team, and we have to manage to show them that we are going to provide them with a good house, that it would be up to their standards, that we will pay what it really had to be paid. Now, it's very difficult, and the law has some mechanism that says how much you have to pay because it's not the mayor going there or saying, I'm going to give you this much for your house. So everyone, when you're selling, you think that your house has more value than what you are being offered.
But we took all the care to go step by step, take your time. So they would come to my office. And I would never ask how difficult it is. But I always said, what do we have to do now? I mean, what is next? What is the problem? How are we going to solve it? So we will be working with them one by one, very carefully. There are some people in the community that immediately tried to organize the community so that they would be against you, saying, the mayor is going to steal the money, and you should ask for more, and so on. So we had this incredible group of people that would be handling people's concerns.
For example, the priest out there was a pain for us because he would be mobilizing the community, saying, we don't need this. We need jobs, for example. We need jobs for our people. We don't need a library park. They had never seen one before. They would say that. I said, we will be explaining. People from the community will be working in the building. But we had to take all the time to explain what it meant to have a library park there. But some people come like that. They say, we need jobs. We don't need that. That's a building. So we had to go through, as I said, a lot of explaining.
The last five ones that we had to buy the house said, we're not going to sell this house. They were supported by the priest. And they said that they were going to chain themselves to the Metrocable. So if they do that, all the journalists in Colombia would come there to say, see what Fajardo is doing to the poor people in Medellín? So I said, let's try everything once more. Do it once more. And they said, no, they don't want. And the priest is behind them. And I said, let them chain themselves. But we prepared all what we have done with them, how many times we have been with them, what we have offered, and let them do it. Go ahead.
So they went during the morning. By the middle of the day, they went there. They asked. And they said, this is what we did with them. We had been working with them for this many times. We have offered them all these things. 135 have already followed the procedure. We have been taking care of them. And then they gave up, and we paid them what we had to pay, and they eventually moved out. But we had our way of handling the conflict in a positive way. But once we had to stop, we stopped and said, whatever. And it worked.
AUDIENCE: That was actually my question, too. Like, where do you get the money?
AUDIENCE: You talked about the examples of the [INAUDIBLE] and the [INAUDIBLE]. But did you see in Colombia when [INAUDIBLE] successful [? major ?] tried to translate those formulas into the national context, that they [INAUDIBLE], [? oh, ?] [? no? ?] What's going to be your formula here, your difference?
SERGIO FAJARDO: The way we are doing it, we have been walking around the country for a whole year. I have visited all the state capitals in Colombia but three, Arauca, Letizia, and Mocoa. In every place where we have been, we are creating a political structure with people working for us. It is not just opinion, just, Fajardo is nice. It's, we are doing the political work, building a social network. And we are working with people all over.
And I've been working for a year now, so I had put a lot of effort myself. And people are appearing everywhere that they want to work with us. So we have followed a different path from the ones that they've followed. I think they made some mistakes. Being very valuable people, they made some mistakes. They understood politics in a different way than we did. We did it differently. So we have learned from their mistakes, too, and that's what we are doing. And it's going to work. I [? can't ?] [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] question. [INAUDIBLE] make a difference in the rural problems and the [? urban ?] problems. So I don't know, in general, probably the creation of social networks [? or that, ?] I understand there is going to be a [INAUDIBLE], but I [? didn't think ?] [? it was going to be very ?] different. So how did you shape your policy for [INAUDIBLE] less [INAUDIBLE] as you?
SERGIO FAJARDO: You're right. And of course, we are not going to do the same thing in the city that is in the rural sectors of the place. Now, 80% of the people in Colombia live in cities. So 20% just live in the rural sector. We are coming up with a proposal for the rural sector, of course. We are going to be the president of Colombia, not the mayor of Medellín or Bogotá. So we have a program that includes all sectors. And we have our program for opportunities in the rural sector.
Politically, we are moving from the state capitals, and we are moving outwards, getting to all places. And doing the political work means that, for example, in this little town, we know a person that this guy who is one of the people in the capital city, for example, knows that person for so many years, then we go and look for that person. Once we have one person in one place, we have a campaign there. And we continue growing. So we are moving. We are expanding all over. And that's the way we do it.
I have a story, but it's a long one. Maybe if you-- I'll give you-- I'll give you an example. What the hell? Whoever wants to leave can leave. For example, San Onofre, Sucre. San Onofre is the municipality in the state of Sucre in Colombia by the ocean. In San Onofre, we have had some of the worst massacres that we have had in Colombia due to the paramilitary. Nearby San Onofre, there is a beach, beautiful, where I've been there many times for vacation.
So for example, this January, I was riding my bicycle from the beach to San Onofre, which is the municipality there. And we went there. I went there with a friend of mine. And we rode our bicycles, which I love. And we got there, and there was a woman who was selling tinto-- coffee-- right in front of her house. Empanadas and tinto.
So we stopped there to drink tinto at 6:45 in the morning this January. And we were there, and suddenly, a guy was passing by. And I don't know why. I asked him, hey, can you tell me a person in this town that you think is an example for the town that you're proud of this guy being part of the town? And the guy looked at me and said, politicians? We have none. I said, I imagine that, but it doesn't have to be a politician. Then he tells me, Facundo Blanco. Who is Facundo Blanco? He said, he's a professor in Sincelejo. It's the state capital nearby. And he studied at the university. He's a very decent person. He understands a problem. I like him very much.
Then another woman came by, very humble people. I said, excuse me, ma'am. Have you heard of Facundo Blanco? She said, sure, I have heard of him. And what do you think of him? Roughly speaking, she told me the same thing that he said. Then my friend said, and where does he live? She said, 3 blocks from here, by the park. Everyone knows him. You should go there and ask for Facundo Blanco. So we rode out bicycles there. It said Facundo Blanco. I said, that's the house. We knocked on the door. A woman opened up the door. I was dressed like a cyclist. So I took my glasses off, my hat off, and said, I used to be the former mayor of Medellín. My name-- oh, I know you. OK.
Now, I want to talk to Facundo Blanco because this happened, and I'm curious to know who Facundo Blanco is. She said, he's my father, but he's not here. I said, could you give me his cell phone number? So she gave me the phone number, and I went back to the place where we were having our holidays. I called him up, and I said, Facundo, you don't know me. This happened to me. I want to talk to you. Could I go to see you? He said, of course.
Next day, at 7 o'clock in the morning, we were again in San Onofre with our bicycles, and there was Facundo Blanco opening up the door. So we came in there. We start talking, and he mentioned that he had gone to the University of Antioquia. He's an engineer. His kids had gone to university, and so on. And we start talking.
And I told him that we were into politics, and he told me, I know you. I know what you have done. I like it very much. And I asked him, and have you been involved with politics? And he said, I supported a guy who was a mayor in this city, in this town. Now, he was killed. And the day that he was killed, I saved my life [SPEAKING SPANISH] I don't know how to translate that into--
AUDIENCE: A long stride-- he ran.
SERGIO FAJARDO: Yeah, OK. He said, I saved my life because I have a long stride. I didn't ask him anymore about this. We talked. And he said that he knew that he had to get involved with politics in his hometown. And I said, well, I invite you to be part of our movement. He said, sure. Then I told him, if you think that I should talk to some other people here in this town, let me know.
I went back to the resort, to the place where I was staying. And he called me back and he said, come Saturday morning, 10 o'clock in the morning, I'm going to have a group of people here who would like to talk to you. And there we were on Saturday. I had to talk to my wife to tell her, you are not going to believe what happened to me, because I had promised that I wouldn't be doing any politics while we were on vacation.
And I said, listen. This happened to me. I explained this and said, you have to believe me that this happened. She said, OK. Anyway, so I negotiated with her, and then we went back to San Onofre. And then we went to Facundo's home. And we got there. In the back patio of the house, 80 people sitting there.
It has been one of the most wonderful times that I have had going throughout the country. Very intelligent people, people educated. I never thought that, in that town, I could find that type of people. I have been through the town many times, but I never dared to look inside. And there they were, people who had been involved, some of them in a civic movement. They were afraid. They stopped doing everything. And there they were. And now they are part of our movement.
So the lesson that we learned is, Colombia has plenty of Facundos and Facundas. And what we have to do is-- and that's the message. I'm writing this down to send it to our people, saying, you have to look for all the Facundos and Facundas that you have around you. If you take a bus, I'm sure there is a Facundo somewhere. In the neighborhood, everywhere. So that's the way we do politics. Look for people, freely.
It's more difficult because usually what people will do in San Onofre, it will be this traditional political leader who, two weeks before the election, he brings a lot of money and then he'll start buying people. They pay for the votes. They bring the rum to drink. And that's how they win the elections. So what we are doing is, we go for the Facundos. We take our time. And that's the way we do it. We'll see if it works. I believe it will.
AUDIENCE: You have a very good example of the [? form of ?] government. How do you see the role of private enterprise? [? Give ?] [? us that ?] [? explanation. ?]
SERGIO FAJARDO: As partners, in the following sense, once we have trust, which is the key issue, the political capital. The most important political capital we can have is the trust of people. So for example, we received the donations that we have never had, I think, in Colombia, nor in Medellín, through history, from the private sector. Why? Because they knew that if they gave me a check, zero pesos would be lost. And people knew what we were doing. We were doing exactly what we did, what we said that we were going to do. So we had to trust the people.
And we managed to convey the idea that all what we were doing, all these things that we built are for the good of everyone in society. Not just for the people in that neighborhood, but for everyone in Medellín. So whenever they see that, they create more opportunities. They donate to have things like the ones that we have done, and that's it.
AUDIENCE: Did you have any tax incentives for them?
SERGIO FAJARDO: No. We didn't have any particular tax incentive at the time in Medellín. Taxing incentives, we have to look at them very carefully. There are people who are saying, you have to cut taxes so that people will do things. I think you have to pay taxes in order to get good things. That's the best investment that they have ever made in the city. Building the buildings that we built, that's the best investment because, for example, Medellín became the second touristic place in Colombia. Who would think of that? How many people came to Medellín?
So we have to come out of this very now way of understanding the world, saying, reduce taxes. Pay taxes. Give those taxes back to society in the way of human capital, better conditions, and that will multiply the people who will reuse the services. So if you have a company that sells food, we need more people, more educated, working more so that they will buy more of their food.
So these tax incentive packages have to be very carefully designed. That's not a universal formula to cut taxes. The businessmen, once that you cut the taxes, then whatever you cut, they will do more investment. I think that's false in most of the cases. So you have to be very careful when you have tax cuts.
AUDIENCE: What was the financial situation at the end of your [INAUDIBLE]?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Very good. The mayor, my friend, had plenty of money to do what they are doing now. And naturally, Medellín is in very good shape these days, when municipalities and governments are having trouble all over. OK.
AUDIENCE: I'm going to [INAUDIBLE] from Colombia. I'm very concerned [INAUDIBLE] of Colombia and a free [? congress ?] treaty and how that would affect local farmers, small and medium [INAUDIBLE]?
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK. First of all, I am in favor of the free trade agreement. I would change things, but the concept of having a country that is related to other countries that can export to other countries, I think, is a good thing to do because we have to be connected to the world. Example, Chile. They have more than 70 free trade agreements with different countries and continents. Colombia's working right now one with the European Union, but we have to have many more. Why Brazil? They have them.
So it's not that we are against free trade in the sense that we should think Colombia is part of the world and think of the free trade agreements as an opportunity for us. Now, there are some things that I, myself, would [? regret ?] taking care of some sectors that they may be erased, perhaps, if things take that [? away. ?] But basically, philosophically, I think free trade is a good opportunity for Colombia. And it has nothing to do with being a neoliberal or anything, but it's a reality, and we better make sure that we use it as an opportunity to increase the knowledge that we put in our products.
And I think, for example, Colombia should be the best located place in the world to do business with the United States. And regardless of whether we have a free trade agreement or not, the first place where we export things is to the United States, whether you like the United States or not. So that's something that I think.
Now, the agricultural sector, the rural sector in Colombia, we have, and we are working on, a design on some policies which are different from the ones that we have had. I'll explain it to you with an example that's something that I learned very few days ago.
For the first time in my life, I went to a part of the country that nobody goes-- Colombians would understand me-- Puerto Carreño, Inírida, San José del Guaviare, y Mitú. For example, Mitú is the capital of Vaupés, and it has 8,000 inhabitants. No political candidate would ever go there. 2,000 people would vote. You will get those votes in a street in Bogotá in half an hour. In order to get there, you have to fly for three hours to land in the middle of the jungle.
Now, if you go to that community, immediately you see the problem. To have a tomato there, it costs a lot because you have to fly it from Bogotá to that place in the middle of the jungle. And whatever they do there, whatever they do, what they take out, it would cost a lot everywhere, any other place. So usually, what we have done in Colombia instead, well, these guys are starving there. Then the guerrillas come. And most of the members of the guerrillas are Indians from the people who live there.
Now, we have to understand those places and understand, for example, that we have to have subsidized. We have to do many more things different in that part of the country. Now, it strikes me that usually what happens is that people think, from Bogotá, from the interior of the country, about those places, and they have no idea what is happening there.
If we think a little, 8,000 people is a very reduced number of Colombians that you can take care of and you can create some special conditions for the way they can produce things. And for example, I would subsidize those sectors, but generously because it's very small. We're not going to destroy the market for tomatoes by taking some tomatoes to Mitú. And we will improve their quality of life. And there will be opportunities. Because the formula is the same. Take violence and bring the opportunities. But what we have been lacking in many parts of Colombia is bringing in the opportunities.
So for example, the Plan Colombia, which is the way the country has an agreement with the United States, I would increase the social components of that program and deeply committed to working in the rural sector and changing the conditions. I think there are very many things that we can do if we put our feet right there and think from their point of view and not from the point of view of the capital or Medellín, thinking of the jungle.
MARY ROLDAN: We can do one or two more for sure.
SERGIO FAJARDO: OK.
AUDIENCE: You described the problem of violence in Medellín mostly coming from narco trafficking. And I was wondering what the impact was [INAUDIBLE] and how did you combat that?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Which groups?
AUDIENCE: Guerrilla groups.
SERGIO FAJARDO: Guerrilla?
SERGIO FAJARDO: Now, the situation in Medellín is complex because we had urban guerrilla groups in some parts of town. Those are not the same guerrilla guys that you have in the jungle. They were militia. That's the name that you use for these guys who are associated with the guerrilla, but they live in the cities. And through years, the violence that we have had in the city has recycled in very different forms. Some used to be members of the militia, then they moved into the paramilitary. And after all these years, with few exceptions, they ended up all being ruled by the paramilitary, which is associated with narco traffic. So that's what we have now.
Now, the roots, as I said, they were growing, but after all these years, they all got together to the same point. So we don't have in Medellín a guerrilla group problem-- a militia problem-- today. We have had them. But what happened in the city was that they all ended up being defeated by the paramilitary, and the paramility were the ones who were ruling these delinquents [? while ?] in the city. And the ones who were members of the guerrilla, many of them, they moved over to the paramilitary. So right now, we don't have that problem in the city of Medellín. That doesn't mean that we don't have guerrillas, but in that particular city, that's not the problem today. OK.
AUDIENCE: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
When and how did you decide when it was enough contributing as a professor and when it was time to go help other poeple? And how did you accomplish from going to the academic world to a politician world?
SERGIO FAJARDO: As I said, I was always a scientist. And I loved mathematics. And I really loved what I did as a professor, which is a very wonderful life. But I was always conscious that I was a member of a society. I was very conscious about the privileges that I have had. In since very young, I knew about it. So when I came here to study, I could have tried to stay here as a professor. But I said, I'm going to go back to Colombia. I always had it perfectly clear in my mind.
I tried, as an individual, to help as much as I could, as I mentioned. But after all those years, we got frustrated with friends. So when we said, I'm not going to spend the rest of my life saying how this should be. We are going to have to be part of it. And that's when we decided to get into politics. When we did that, and I myself [? did ?] that decision, I left the university. I resigned as a full professor. I had my tenure, full professor, all the highest benefits that we have as a professor in Colombia, and I sent my letter. I said, I quit. I'm going to put myself in here.
People said, this guy is crazy. And they have always been telling us it's impossible. So when I was going to run for mayor of Medellín, they said, it's impossible. You have no experience. You have no public position before. You have done nothing in the public sector. It's impossible. How come a professor could be a mayor of Medellín? And they would say that I was from Bogotá. So they [? all ?] said, un profesor bogotano, mayor of Medellín? That's impossible, because I have lived for a long time in Bogotá, and I like Bogotá.
But then the first poll that we had-- I mentioned this before. The first poll that we had, 0% for Fajardo. But we never quit. We said, no way. I'm not going to get out of this. And we continued working very hard.
So why did that happen? I don't know. But it happened. I mean, something that you feel somehow in your life. I took a big risk. And it hasn't been easy. I have my sufferings in all these things. But and the end, the privilege has been in my life that I have always done what I wanted to do. So my daughter asked me, Dad, how come you wake up every day with that energy and so happy? And I said, I'm doing what I want to do.
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Sergio Fajardo served as the mayor of Medellín, Colombia--a city of about two million people--from 2004 to 2007. During his tenure, he is credited with transforming Medellín--once described as the world's deadliest city because of its homicide rate--into a showcase for new educational and architectural projects. For his efforts, he was named Best Mayor by the Colombia Leader Foundation in 2007 and Personality of the Year in Latin America by the Financial Times Business magazine.
Fajardo received his M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has taught at several universities including the National University in Bogota and Medellín. He has also worked as a journalist for publications such as Money Magazine.
This lecture was presented on February 19, 2009 and is part of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) 2008-09 Colloquium Series. CIPA offers a two-year program of graduate professional study leading to a master of public administration (M.P.A.) degree.