A police officer interviewed Saturday at a police substation across from the hotel, from where responding officers likely came, said he doubted the officers’ priority that morning was to help the woman get paid.
“I believe the officers were trying to defuse the situation,” said the policeman, who asked that his name not be published because he was not authorized to speak on the issue. “If he tried to get the man to pay that was because he saw payment as a requirement to control the situation, not because as a policy we help prostitutes get paid. That is between them and the clients.”
Beyond whether Suárez should have been paid, Cartageneros had varied opinions on the scandal’s impact. The consensus was that the scandal is bad because it may add another stain to Colombia’s reputation as a drug-trafficking and criminal hub.
“Now tourists will have more fears,” said Elizabeth Sandoval, 32, a worker in a shopping mall where La Dolce Vita is located.
Marcela Romero, 27, who runs a small Internet café near La Dolce Vita, said her main fear was that from now on foreign tourists will equate Colombian women with prostitutes.
“I have a friend who is a nurse and she is dating a man who lives in Alaska,” said Romero. “She told me Friday that she now fears that her boyfriend may change his mind about her because of the scandal.”
She also recounted how during a taxi ride one day last week, the driver complained when he saw a Colombian woman walking alongside a tall, blonde man.
“He said, ‘If I see my daughter with a foreigner I will disown her,’ and I said to myself, ‘Wow, nothing like that was said here before the scandal.’”
Within Cartagena’s colonial section, hordes of foreign tourists took in the sights Saturday led by tour guides. Some stood in front of the Tu Candela at Plaza de los Coches taking pictures of the nightclub whose name has been mentioned in connection with the scandal.
Among the tourists Saturday was a couple from New York, Rob Coppersmith and Mary Manaker, who had booked their vacation trip before the scandal broke.
“Before the scandal, many of our friends had trouble locating where we were going,” said Manaker. “But now people have no trouble understanding where Cartagena is and who was involved.”
On a beach near the colonial section, Gregorio Caraballo, 62, who rents umbrellas and chairs to beachgoers, hoped the scandal will eventually fade.
“People should look beyond what happened and see that Cartagena has an old history and is a city that by and large is peaceful and healthy.”
(Chardy reports for the Miami Herald.)