Last week as the story started to unfold and take shape, I read on the BBC, that Kate had gone into labour and the couple had travelled to the hospital without a police escort - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23402103. Later I read that she had given birth to the later named, Prince George Alexander Louis, and that the chief gynaecologist had sent a message to convey the news to the Queen. The message had been taken to Buckingham Palace under police escort, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23413653.
This struck me as being rather funny as it suggested that the, soon to be parents and their baby were not as important as the note which bore the news. I’m not suggesting that their security was ever jeopardised, as these days security tends to be in the background, in unmarked cars, undercover policemen, on rooftops, overhead helicopters, e-mail interception and phone tapping, but it was amusing to read.
The police escort in fact may have very little to do with security, and more to do with speed, and depending on the time of day and the distance to be covered, may be more or less necessary. The other insight worth mentioning is that I saw pictures of the happy couple with the new Prince, and of the Queen on her way to the hospital, in cars where one can easily see who the occupants of the cars are.
In contrast to this, here in Medellin, I see many cars every day with windows blacked out to various degrees, making it difficult or impossible to distinguish the people inside the vehicle. I also know various people who have bullet proof cars, and one or two who have bodyguards. Not that long ago I was returning home from a class, and to my surprise discovered that a road not far from where I live was cordoned off, and police and soldiers were swarming around.
One of the police stopped me and asked to see my Colombian identity card, checked it, and let me continue. I wondered what had happened or was about to happen, and asked a local shopkeeper what was going on. She informed me that the President was coming to have lunch at a local restaurant. I asked her which president, as I assumed she meant the president of one of the large companies based in Medellin. “Santos”, she replied in disbelief at my question. Juan Manuel Santos, is the current President of Colombia. Minutes later a cavalcade of cars, with totally blacked out windows, a truck with soldiers brandishing machine guns and an ambulance, just in case the President needed to be rushed to a hospital, drove past me as I continued on my way home. I wonder whether the ambulance was in case of a possible assassination attempt or because the food in the restaurant is not the best!
I think this comparison paints a clear picture of the different ways the two countries deal with security and the increased need Colombia has compared to the UK.