- By Bill Bonner
**"I love it here in Medellin," said a woman in her '50s.
"It feels safe. The people are nice. The weather is great. And the prices are low."
This was the same report we got from other Americans we met in the city. (We weren't there long enough to have much of an opinion of our own; we're on our way to London now).
"I just wanted to get some money out of the US. The way things are going, I feel like I need a bolt hole somewhere. I don't really have that much money, but I'm investing a quarter of it down here. You can just look at this place and see that it is on the way up. When I'm in the US it always feels to me that it is on the way down."
Medellin does feel like an up-and-coming place. Last night, for example, we went out to one of the most trendy restaurants we've ever seen.
"This is a molecular menu," the waiter tried to explain, in shaky English. "You get 15 experiencias."
It was already late at night, for a gringo.
"I can guess what an experiencia is, but what's a molecular menu?" we asked a companion.
"It's when they break down the food and recompose it in novel ways. You might get something that looks like a steak, for example, but it might be made of onions and beets and flavored jasmine."
Thus warned, we braced for an experiencia.
The first came in the form of a little amuse-bouche which we weren't able to identify, neither the component parts nor the desired simulation. But the next was more daring.
"Put your hands together," the waiter told us. As if begging for alms we cupped our hands, into which he ladled warm, semi-pureed, berries. Then, he poured a cream sauce, also warm, on top of them.
"You should rub your hands together before eating them," we were encouraged.
We did so, as best we could, making a greasy mess in our hands. Then, we had no choice but to lick the goo off. It was tasty. But nevermore will we doubt the technological improvement wrought by the simple spoon.
Bowls were placed before us. Warm water washed over our sticky hands. And we were ready for the next course. We ate with curiosity but not much satisfaction. One course after another. And a small flood of Argentine Malbec helped get the work done.
Finally, the last course was announced. A dessert of nougat. But wait, said the attending pitcher. 'Lest you think you're going to get a clean hit on this, we're going to throw you a curve.' The nougat had been super frozen, as if packed in dry ice. As soon as it was put on the tough, it stuck and burned.
"You've got to move it around," came the instruction.
And so passed a delightful evening of culinary discovery. But the point is, these experiencias are unknown in Baltimore. We have no cuisine so hip, so mondain or so avant garde. This was not Mi Ranchito in Pig Town!
**Out the window of the airport in Medellin is a big sign for DynCorp. The name sounded familiar, so we looked it up. As we suspected, DynCorp is a defense contractor based in Northern Virginia. If the Wikipedia info is correct, it has been involved in a number of profitable projects - earning most of almost all of its money from the government by providing, among other things, CIA computer systems and anti-terrorist military support.
Here in Colombia, the US military - backed by DynCorp - was used to suppress the drug trade.
"Well, it was much more complicated than that," explains a local informant. "They were never going to stop the drug business. It would have been crazy to think that. The business was dominated by big, powerful, well-connected families. It's a huge business and it's very profitable. The families involved were never very worried about the government, because they were usually in on the deal. But they worried a lot about each other. That was why there was so much violence - wars between the drug families. It's a very competitive industry.
"What seems to have happened...and nobody knows for sure...is that the government made a deal with one of the families. It would use the US military (and companies like DynCorp) to wipe out the competition. And the remaining monopolists agreed to stop killing people."
It seemed to work.
**We are still getting complaints about what many see as an unfair attack on old people. "It wasn't our fault," is the general refrain.
Of course, they're right. Collective guilt has no place in these pages. Nor are you to blame for the credit expansion just because you once voted for Richard Milhous Nixon...or because you were forced into Social Security system.
A young person though, more sure of himself than we are, might ask:
"Shouldn't old people today at least be forced to look at the world they created...and accept responsibility for it?"
Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.