Things That Matter

Australian Federal Police Busted A Colombian Gang’s Drug Home In An Very Wealthy Part Of Sydney

This is a story of a surprising find in a tranquil Australian suburb. What unfolds is a tale of hidden illegal activity and a surprise discovery. This all happened back in 2017, but legal proceedings are putting the spotlight on this case again. Cases like this bring to mind how many Latin American communities are stigmatized due to the incidence of drug-related crimes in the region, and how global cartels expand internationally. These processes of stigmatization not only affect everyday interactions but also wider policymaking, as the recent discussions around the proposed border wall in the US-Mexico border have highlighted. 

First things first: Australia is hard to reach for drug cartels.

Credit: image. Digital image. Business Insider

Oceania is the last bastion for international drug cartels. Australia, in particular, is heavily guarded but also has miles and miles of coast that is practically impossible to fully surveil. Cartels, however, have found ways to enter this market. In recent years, journalistic accounts of the role that international criminal networks have in the distribution of drugs in Australia has sparked public concern and debate. According to recent research published in The Age, “Australians consumed illegal drugs worth $9.3 billion in 2018”.  The presence of organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel in Australian cities and its role in the ice epidemic has sparked concerns among journalists and policymakers. The Australian media is up in arms every time the cartels are identified in the country. As reported by Daily Telegraph on January 28, 2019: “The Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, described as the most ruthless and deadly in the world, has joined forces with the increasingly dangerous Nigerian crime network in Sydney to carry out large-scale drug importation.” This story, for example, plays with fears of foreigners in a society that sometimes tends to be insular and afraid of immigration. Are reports like this generating stereotypes?

This is where this story begins:

Sylvania is like any upscale suburb in the ultra-expensive beachside city of Sydney, Australia.

Credit: Screenshot taken from RealEstate.com.au

Houses in Sylvania often reach the $1 million AUD mark. It is a pretty relaxed place with a mostly white population, but with pockets of Asian and Greek migrants. It is the synonym of a relaxed Aussie beach suburb. Nothing much happens and everything is usually closed by 7 p.m. 

There is some old money around, and plenty of new money.

Credit: Screenshot taken from RealEstate.com.au

When we said homes can easily reach a million, we were talking about the lower end of the spectrum. A four-bedroom apartment goes for more than two million Australian dollars. But look at those views!

From the outside, a suburban home in Sylvania was just another ordinary, sleepy household.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

Nothing to suspect. Just a comfy couch and a bookshelf lined with Lonely Planet travel guidebooks. 

The cops suspected something was going on so they searched the property.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police was investigating a Sydney-based Colombian gang that was involved in the distribution of border-controlled drugs. The police were also following the trails of a money-laundering operation believed to be operated by Colombians. This all happened in 2017, but the details of the case are just being released as part of a court proceeding. As Australian Government News reported on July 12, 2019: “On 10 July 2019, the Supreme Court of NSW made orders which restrained a residential property in Sylvania, NSW, under section 19 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) based on the allegation the property was used in, or in connection with, various drug offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).”

This is what they found behind the now-famous bookshelf: and now the police is trying to seize the property.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

The authorities believed that the house was actually a custom made to fit in the illegal drug operation. For this reason, the authorities are looking to confiscate the house. In addition, the authorities charged a 45-year-old man (the police hasn’t disclosed his name for legal reasons) with multiple drug-related offenses: supplying cocaine, being in the possession of cannabis and, as reported by The Sun UK, ” dealing in proceeds of crime with a value that reached around $100,000.” This man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison. 

Drugs, high tech transmitters, they really had everything they needed to run a drug business.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

According to The Sun UK, police found that the property “was full of cash, replica weapons, tasers, and wireless transmitters, police confirmed”. This was a big hit on organized crime in Australia, a country that is hard to penetrate for drug cartels due to its tight borders and geographical isolation. There are also very few cases of police corruption. Officer Penelope Kelton, Coordinator of Criminal Assets Litigation, said (as per The Sun UK): “The ability to confiscate items used in the commission of crimes sends a clear message to the criminal underworld – if you commit the crime, we are prepared to target your assets. Drug-related crime puts a great strain on the community through increased health care costs, associated property crime and other forms of violence. It is only reasonable that police can fight back on behalf of the community by targeting those who seek to profit from inflicting this misery.”

Drug trafficking is a significant issue in Australia for multiple reasons.

Credit: mexico_drugs. Digital image. Australian Institute of International Affairs.

The illegal distribution and consumption of narcotics through global networks of criminal complicity is a significant social problem worldwide and public health concern in most Western countries, including Australia. Alongside the distribution of drugs, negative stereotypes about Global South populations run rampant. In particular, Latin American citizens from countries like Colombia and Mexico are stigmatized due to the negative image their home countries have in relation to the drug wars. 

Representation matters: not all Latinos are drug dealers!

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

Alongside extremism and terrorism, since the 1990s international criminal networks have been framed as one of the main challenges to Western democracies, a place formerly held by the Soviet Union and left-leaning countries. This understanding of recent world history has the potential to generate stereotypes that could influence national and international discussions regarding border security, as seen in the recent debate in the United States concerning the construction of a Southern border wall.

How stories like these are told in the media influences the way in which Latinos living in English-speaking and Global North countries are perceived. Australian newspapers emphasized the fact that those arrested were Colombian, which further adds to the bad rep that the country has in the Southern Hemisphere. To this, we have to add that most references that Australians and non-Latino Americans have of the region are through TV shows and movies. As a recent editorial by Hector Tobar published in The New York Times pointed out: “By the next network upfronts, or summer movie blockbuster season, Latino drug operatives may outpace their chief rivals — jihadist terrorists and Russians mobsters — and become the country’s leading screen bad guys”. 

Kali Uchis’s ‘Solita’ Is The Sexy And Empowering Reggaeton Song You Need To Get Over Your Ex

Entertainment

Kali Uchis’s ‘Solita’ Is The Sexy And Empowering Reggaeton Song You Need To Get Over Your Ex

kaliuchis / Instagram

Kali Uchis’s soulful voice has the whole world hypnotized. The Colombian-American’s songs embody female empowerment and strong womanhood, though Uchis says that’s coincidental. Empowerment has always been a recurrent theme in her music and now she’s back at it with her new release “Solita.”

Born in the United States but largely raised in Colombia, Kali Uchis’s music speaks of a multi-cultural conversation, a mosaic of influences, colors, and sounds.

Her debut album ‘Isolation’ made a huge impact on its 2018 release, the singer then hit the road for a tour of dazzling appearances.

“Bailando aquí sola, es mejor que con el diablo.”

Incoming single ‘Solita’ is her first blast of new material in 12 months, and it’s an ode to independence, to rejecting societal pressure to embrace a relationship; “Bailando aquí sola, es mejor que con el diablo.”

“Solita” is a song about the pleasures of being alone.

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siempre sola . <3

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Her first drop in 12 months, this new material is a song all about that classic Latino saying that goes a little like: “Mas vale sol@ que mal acompañad@.“ On the pleasures of being alone, Kali says, “I’d rather dance alone than with the devil. This song is about healing, freedom and embracing the mixed emotions that come with that. I hope my fans feel sexy when they listen to it. I’m so excited to share more…”

Uchis’s new single is a mellow, sexy, reggaeton song.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

Over a reggaetón beat, Uchis’s pained vocals announce that she’d rather be alone than stay with someone who hurts her. Embellished with croons and synth echoes, the song continues to show off her omnivorous approach to the genre.

The singer’s new single is her first bilingual single.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

“Solita,” her first new music since 2018 and her first bilingual single. Describing a relationship raw with “open wounds,” as long as she stays, she’s suffocating: “Rooted in your ways/You won’t ever know, you won’t ever see/Who I am today.” She switches to Spanish for the chorus, affirming that her decision to leave is the right one, even if it hurts: “Bailando aquí sola, como a mi me gusta” (“Dancing here alone, as I like”). It’s better, she says, than dancing with the devil. With each aching repetition of the word “sola,” she braces for a future where she’ll be able to rely on herself.

The sultry track was produced by Tainy, who’s worked with J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Credit: tainy / Instagram

In an interview with Apple Music, she elaborated on the song: “The vibe was sad, yet horny. There’s a little bit of sexiness in it, but it’s also nostalgic. The hook basically translates to, ‘I’d rather dance alone than with the devil.’ I think that just goes back to wanting to feel empowered about independence, rather than feel like, ‘Oh, poor me, I’m alone.’ It’s not really like that.” She added, “I wrote the song a year ago. I was coming out of a breakup from a really long relationship. I think the song still resonates with me because I definitely look at relationships really differently.”

The Colombian-American singer has hinted at a Spanish album in the near future. 

“For my next album, I’m really going back to my roots, experimenting more with my music, not thinking so hard and not trying so hard — just free-flowing,” she said in an interview. The album would be predominantly in Spanish with some Spanglish, because that’s how Latinos live their everyday lives and we can’t wait to listen to the final result. “When I really want to say something that I feel I have to say in English, I will switch over because I’m not going to force it, but a lot of it will be in Spanish,” Uchis told People en Español. “Solita” is the first single off the album. “I’m at a point in my life where I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I’m growing every year.”

Kali Uchis wonders if she tried a little ‘too hard’ to prove herself in her debut album. 

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

Reflecting on “Isolation”, Kali says she wonders if worrying about proving herself led her to overthink too much. “Looking back on it, I did tell true stories that were happening in my life on ‘Isolation,’ but I was a little too concerned about like, ‘This is my first album, I have to get the Gorillaz on it, Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, Tyler [the Creator], Bootsy [Collins].’ I felt like I had to pull everyone that I love into the project in order to prove myself as this genius.” 

She’s very proud of the result, nonetheless.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

“Someone coming from where I come from would have never even thought I would be able to get all those different artists on a project and be able to make it sound like one cohesive project,” Uchis told People en Español. “Project is the best word for [Isolation] — it was an experiment.”

Now, she’s happy to feel less pressure when she’s in the studio.

Who else is ready for some new music from Kali Uchis?

READ: In Her Latest Video, Kali Uchis Goes Shopping For A Lover, Who Turns Out To Be Tyler, The Creator

Steve Harvey Continues To Dig His Own Grave By Ragging On Colombia Throughout The Miss Universe Pageant

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Steve Harvey Continues To Dig His Own Grave By Ragging On Colombia Throughout The Miss Universe Pageant

Dailymail / Twitter

After the 2015 Miss Universe disaster where Steve Harvey erroneously crowned Miss Colombia? who? the winner of the pageant when Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach was actually the winner, we assumed that Harvey would try to be on his best behavior from now on. But of course, Steve Harvey being Steve Harvey, he couldn’t play it straight for too long. And, once again, he’s embroiled himself in another controversy–again, involving Miss Colombia.

From the get-go, Harvey started off his hosting gig awkwardly, immediately addressing his 2015 headline-making mix-up. He then proceeded to make an off-color joke about the fiasco. “Colombia’s gotten over that. They’ve forgiven me,” he quipped. “Well, not all of them. The cartel’s still tripping a little bit”. 

As if this opening joke weren’t offensive enough, Harvey continued to rag on Colombia when announcing that Miss Colombia Gabriela Tafur had qualified for the Top 20. 

After being announced, Tafur approached Steve Harvey, joking with him a little about his his famous absentmindedness. “Yes, I’m here,” she joked. “Are you sure you read correctly? Should I go back?”.

Harvey admitted to Tafur that he was “struggling” with his hosting duties, to which Tafur replied, “You’re forgiven”. Sensing an opportunity to shoe-horn in another narco joke, Harvey said: “You’ve forgiven me, not the cartel…They’re not handling it the same way.”

Tafur, although she looked as if she were trying to be a good sport and smile it off, appeared to become a bit more frozen after he cracked the joke. It also should be noted that the audience didn’t seem to respond well to the joke–there was little laughter to be heard coming from the crowd.

The backlash to Harvey’s joke was swift, with Colombians accusing the comedian of perpetuating negative stereotypes about  their beloved South American country.

The truth is, pageantry is an important aspect of many Latino cultures–especially ones in South America. Part of the reason that many of these women join pageants is to be a positive representation of their country for the rest of the world. 

There is even a “National Costume Show” portion of the competition where contestants dress up in outfits that illustrate an authentic aspect of the culture of their home country. No country is perfect and the pageant isn’t meant shouldn’t be turned into a platform to single out a country and bring attention to its flaws.

Miss Colombia, for her part, took to Twitter herself to drag Harvey for his offensive joke. 

Although many people still associate Colombia drugs, gangs, and violence, its murder rate has fallen to 25% in the last 25 years. In 2016, the Colombian government and the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia signed a peace treaty with the goal of putting an end to a violent civil war that has last 52 years. The treaty included switch illegal crops like coca with alternatives, hopefully minimizing opportunity for drug traffickers. Since then, Colombia’s homicide rate has dropped to an all-time low

Not only was the audience unimpressed with Harvey’s inappropriate joke, but Twitter was too.

It’s one thing to slip up once, make an inappropriate joke, and then stop after you’ve learned the error of your ways. Harvey continued to make Colombia the butt of his jokes and he crossed the line. 

This person made a point to call out Steve Harvey for trying to embarrass Colombia on a worldwide stage. 

Miss Colombia is chosen to be a representative about the best parts of her country. Tafur has nothing to do with cartels. 

This person explained how Harvey’s “joke” was disrespectful to actual victims and survivors of cartel violence.

Believe it or not, cartel violence is an epidemic in Colombia. We guarantee that if Harvey experience the violence in person, he wouldn’t be making light of the situation on international TV.

In an event as globally inclusive as Miss Universe, it’s imperative to recognize that no country is perfect.

Colombians are tired of being thought of as narcos and drug addicts in the eyes of the world. 

This Twitter user was full of kind words for a woman who handled an uncomfortable situation with such grace

I like how @IAmSteveHarvey makes a joke about the cartel to #MissColombia and then cut to her package and she’s like “I’m a lawyer and have been fighting violence in my country.” Get it girl. And Steve, sit down man. #MissUniverse