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Cali, a city for everyone

Article - July 17, 2013
Dr. Rodrigo Guerrero Velasco was elected Mayor of Cali, Colombia, in a landslide victory in 2011. A public health expert and former mayor, he came from an independent political group and his campaign was backed by sections of the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the ASI, former President Alvaro Uribe, and senior U Party and Cambio Radical figures.
Santiago de Cali was founded in 1536 by Sebastián de Belalcázar, a Spanish conquistador who is said to have left for the New World with Christopher Columbus. Although Cali did not develop economically until the 1950s because of its landlocked position, it has since become Colombia’s third largest city and one of the country’s major business centers. It is therefore unsurprising that it is enjoying the benefits of the strong growth the country has been experiencing in recent years. As the Mayor of Cali notes, the country is “living a time of great oil yields, which have been handled by Ecopetrol, a company that is handled with extraordinary orthodoxy”. Precisely, it has been these booming mining and energy sectors that have made Colombia a larger recipient of foreign companies and investors.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, FDI inflow even surpassed the regional average, rising 18% and hitting $15.8 billion in 2012. According to Dr. Guerrero’s analysis, the European debt crisis has driven a good number of companies to “discover that Colombia is a country which offers guarantees of stability” and that it successfully overcame “the political crisis by which it seemed Colombia was going to disappear as a state due to the combination of FARC, ELN and other guerrillas.” 
As the second cycle of the regional peace negotiations come to an end, Dr. Guerrero remembers that “we have to recognize the work of Uribe’s government in avoiding Colombia’s disappearance” and looks towards a future with a “period of solid democratic institutions”. The Colombian presidential elections of 2010 resulted in the victory of current President Juan Manuel Santos, who according to Dr. Guerrero “was educated to lead, receiving all the training one can desire for the president of the republic”. Indeed, Mr. Santos is an economist by profession and journalist by trade, who was educated at the University of Kansas, LSE, Tufts and Harvard.

He has previously held governmental positions as Colombia’s first Minister of Foreign Trade as well as Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance and Public Credit, which “grants a great deal of confidence in the country” according to Dr. Guerrero. Contrary to what one would think hearing these words of praise for both presidents, Dr. Guerrero states that personally, he has “no political affiliation” and both times he was elected mayor it was with the support of a citizens movement and signatures.
Guerrero: a fresh vision for the municipality

The departments of Cundinamarca, Santander, Risaralda, Antioquia and the Cauca Valley are the least afflicted by poverty in the nation, while the departments of Choco, Cauca, Cordoba, Magdalena and La Guajira had the worst poverty levels in the figures released by the government statistics agency, DANE, in January 2013.  In this respect Dr. Guerrero says, “It is my political conviction that we have to make a big effort to correct the inequality. I would feel frustrated if I could not substantially change the inequalities that exist in Cali and the way to do this is through education and public services that can reach the poorer classes”

Colombia’s homicide rate in 2012 struck its lowest level in 27 years, according to the National Police Commander, General José Roberto Leon, with a rate at 31 per 100,000 inhabitants. According to the Ministry of Defense, by the end of 2012 every criminal band leader had been killed, captured or had surrendered to the authorities. Furthermore, criminal activity from the FARC, ELN, and criminal bands affects fewer Colombians every year, with over 93% of the country’s municipalities free of such attacks. The Mayor of Cali has experience working in the IDB’s Pan American Health and Violence division and notes that “homicidal violence in Colombia has dropped from 77 to 35 homicides per 100,000, which was higher than El Salvador or Venezuela four or five years ago, which is unacceptably high, but is half of what we had five years ago, and shows a very favorable trend.”
Before being mayor, Dr. Guerrero was also a member of the VallenPaz initiative – a private, non-profit organization dedicated to building peace through human development and economic support of the small farmers of the regions that were hardest hit by the armed conflict in southwestern Colombia. Proof of social reinsertion, the Mayor notes that “a farmer in VallenPaz produces 12 times more per hectare than the best sugar industry Cauca Valley. It is absolutely proven that they can do it.”

Cali, a model of public spirit

Empresas Municipales de Cali (Emcali), the state-owned company that provides water, telecommunications, and electricity services in Cali, was returned to the control of the city government in June after 13 years of intervention by the central government. As Colombia’s Housing and Land Ministry noted in a press release, due to the inadequate administrative practices of the time, the public services regulator Superservicios had to take over management of Emcali in April 2000. Emcali generates close to $104 million in earnings each year and Dr. Guerrero believes that “the people of Cali are very proud to be the example of civility in Colombia, having invented the Medellin Public Enterprises which are today the jewel of Colombia and came to learn here from Emcali” before the entity’s crisis.
Cali today is a reflection of the positive socioeconomic moment that the country is living, and it is advancing towards the goal Dr. Guerrero set for the city upon election, which was to position Cali as a competitive international metropolis and the capital of the Latin American Pacific region. Long gone are the days of the Cali Cartel, also known as “Cali’s Gentlemen”. From the ‘70s to the late ‘90s Cali was under the strong influence of drug trafficking, and the most important difference between the Cali Cartel and the Medellin Cartel was the level of sophistication of the former. The members of Cali’s drug cartel “had university education, many of their children had studied in Boston or Harvard, and thus were more like the Sicilian mafia that penetrates, convinces, seduces, threatens and could murder, although they preferred not to have to reach this step”. The cartel's influence also spread to the political and justice system which caused “a governmental crisis and the number of people willing to work in the interest of the citizens was very small” as Dr. Guerrero notes. 
The most exciting event in Latin America during the first quarter of 2012 was the Pacific Alliance summit and it was held in Cali. The city has built a reputation for itself managing to attract other high profile events such as The World Games and the Third Summit of Leaders of African Descent. Dr. Guerrero points out the the fact that “the summit was organized using resources Cali already had and that there was no need to build anything new,” which has had an effect on the self-esteem of Cali’s citizens. In addition to these summits, Dr. Guerrero notes that “there are many things that have been happening in Cali of great importance and that seem dormant, such as the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)” – which is one of the 15 specialized research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and is also the headquarters for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
An emerging medical tourism destination

Cali has always been known as the world’s salsa capital, however for the last two decades it is has been strengthening its position as a world-class health and beauty melting pot. The world-renowned soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona has visited Cali on various occasions for knee surgery and weight-loss surgery. Cali is home to leading medical universities such as the ICESI, Universidad del Valle, Unilibre and the Javeriana, and it is precisely from these medical schools that this group of highly qualified experts comes from, as Dr. Guerrero explains he has “friends who live in the United States that pay the plane ticket to Cali for dental or surgical procedures, visit their family and find it cheaper to do it here than in the U.S. or Europe.”
The main touristic sites in Cali are the Parque de la Caña de Azucar, the Religious Complex of San Francisco, the Ermita Church, the Three Crosses Mount, the Sebastián de Benalcázar Statue, the Archaeological Museum, the Gold Calima Museum of the Bank of the Republic, and the Pan-American Park. One of the city’s most alluring attractions is the Parque de los Poetas, where poets write prose on typewriters for pedestrians and was born thanks to the idea of local art merchant Camilo Octavio Gaviria the first time Dr. Guerrero was mayor.


Ricardo Cruzcampo
31/07/2013  |  19:14
100% of 1

Realmente Cali tiene suerte con este alcalde, marca la diferencia.

Juan Ramón Pardo
29/08/2013  |  21:30
100% of 1

Ese Camilo Octavio del parque de los poetas es un berraco!!

N. Sangster
03/09/2013  |  13:20
100% of 1

Siempre que vuelo a España paso por Cali y la próxima estoy pensando en darme una vuelta y conocer ese campo de golf!!

Kaori Alemán
05/09/2013  |  15:57
100% of 1

Me encantaron los juegos mundiales!!!!

Huilen Sauceda Laureano
13/09/2013  |  1:26
100% of 1

Gran iniciativa la cumbre afro que organizan en estas fechas!!!

玉造 哲也
16/09/2013  |  3:50
100% of 1

very interesting article

Anthony Bettington
16/09/2013  |  22:04
100% of 1

Wow it seems to be really improving

入江 節子
18/09/2013  |  23:35
100% of 1

my limited Spanish was not a problem because the people of Cali were so charming. :D

Lilly Chapman
18/09/2013  |  23:47
100% of 1

Sublime golf course

Jc Durán
19/09/2013  |  14:29
100% of 1

El potencial es inmenso

Saumet Fernandez
19/09/2013  |  21:55
100% of 1

Hombre, para turismo hay que ir a Santa Marta o a Cartagena, pero Cali tiene su gracia

19/09/2013  |  22:01
100% of 1

Que ricooo mi Cali sabrosooo ;)