It appears that Colombians cannot be trusted to have a few beers while watching their national team play in the World Cup.
Or at least that is what some officials in that country seem to think.
For the second time since the World Cup began, officials have decided to ban alcohol sales in Bogota on the day that Colombia plays. There will be no beer or liquor sold in the city of eight million while Colombia faces Japan this evening.
The measure will also be implemented in several medium sized Colombian cities, including Cali, the “salsa capital” of the world. Sogamoso, a city in the mountainous state of Boyaca, has taken even stricter measures: No one in that town will be allowed to leave their homes after 8 p.m. today, when officials will impose a “general curfew.”
Bogota officials argue that alcohol consumption has fueled violent post match celebrations during the World Cup.
For example, in the 24 hours that followed Colombia’s opener against Greece, officials tallied 3,000 brawls in the city, nine homicides and more than 20 injuries, an unusually high amount for Bogota in a weekend.
Alcohol sales were permitted on the day of that game, but were banned on June 19, when Colombia played its second World Cup match against Ivory Coast.
Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro says that the alcohol ban during the Ivory Coast game left a “successful balance,” of zero post game homicides, and reduced brawls, so he decided to repeat the prohibition strategy for the Japan match.
This decision has not gone down well with Colombia’s Association of Bar Owners, (ASOBARES) which argues that selling alcohol in bars and restaurants has nothing to do with post game violence.
According to the association, murders that took place after the Greece match happened in the streets or in homes, and not in the city’s bars.
“Officials are giving vandals the opportunity to enrich themselves by making a black market for liquor, selling it out of suitcases and backpacks,” ASOBARES president said on Colombia’s Blu Radio after the Ivory Coast match.
The association has asked to meet with Bogota’s mayor to come up with alternate security measures for Colombia’s matches.
There’s been much debate in Colombia on why violence happens after national teams matches, specially in Bogota.
Hugo Acero, a Colombian security expert argues that one factor that increases violence in that city, are cultural clashes between its residents.
Acero told BBC Mundo that Bogota is inhabited by a wide range of immigrants from different parts of Colombia, who have different forms of celebrating soccer victories.
“It’s not that the city is violent,” Acero said. “But it is a hodgepodge of different cultures and groups, who express their happiness in ways that some like and others don’t and that generates conflicts.”
The most typical example of this is how people from Colombia’s Caribbean coast throw foam and flour at strangers during post match celebrations, something that is also done during carnival.
That custom does not go down well with people from other parts of Colombia who live in Bogota, and can generate conflicts, which can become violent when people are under the influence. The city government is even asking Bogota residents not to use foam and flour during world cup celebrations.
Another explanation for the violence is that Bogota is not used to mass celebrations, like other cities which have yearly festivals where everyone participates.
“In Barranquilla for example, the past weekend [when Colombia played Greece] was very tranquil. And people are big soccer fans in that town,” Acero told BBC Mundo.
Barranquilla, a city of 1.5 million on the Caribbean coast, stages Colombia’s biggest carnival celebrations each year, something that “puts people in the right state of mind,” for massive public acts of partying, where one is forced to interact with strangers, according to Acero.
As the debate over violence and soccer rages on in Colombia, officials in Bogota are planning to sustain prohibition on days that the team Colombia plays.
Police seem to be happy with the policy.
“We welcome these measures,” Colombia’s National Police director Rodolfo Palomino said on Tuesday. He added that the measure is necessary as long as Colombia has “lamentable expressions of tragedy where neighbors, and friends attack each other.”