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New Left Review 44, March-April 2007


Transformed from murder capital to corporate boom town, Medellín has been hailed as a rare urban success story for neo-conservatism in South America. The singular progression of Escobar and Uribe’s hometown—cattle-trading post, industrial centre, drug-trafficking hub, neoliberal Latin Mecca.

FORREST HYLTON

MEDELLÍN’S MAKEOVER

In the face of a string of leftist successes in the Andes, with radical-populists elected in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the Right can boast one spectacular triumph. Medellín, the most conservative city in Colombia, the continent’s most conservative country, has been undergoing a dramatic boom for the past few years. Levels of high-rise construction now surpass those of Los Angeles and New York combined. Since 2002, the profusion of apartment towers, luxury hotels, supermarkets and shopping malls has been breathtaking. The country’s largest conglomerates and over seventy foreign enterprises now have their Colombian headquarters in Medellín, among them Phillip Morris, Kimberly Clark, Levi Strauss, Renault, Toyota and Mitsubishi.  A 30,000 square-foot convention centre opened in 2005, and over a dozen international conferences have been held there annually, generating more than $100 million in investment and business deals. Medellín’s fashion industry is at present second only to São Paulo’s; its medical sector is a Latin American leader in organ transplants, aids and cancer research. An upscale museum-park complex in the city centre, replacing the old outdoor market and red-light district, houses the work of world-renowned Medellín artist, Fernando Botero, with his sculptures featured in an open-air setting.




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