Mayor of Colombian city of Pasto: ‘Undoubtedly, Kazan is different to Paris, Rome, London. But…’

Tens of mayors from around the world visited Kazan last week. A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya talked to Mayor of Pasto (Colombia) Pedro Vicente Obando Ordoñez at a break between sessions of UCLG. In an interview with our newspaper he told how dangerous it was to visit this Latin American country, what impressed him in Kazan and whether the capital of Tatarstan needed changes.

Colombia: corruption, drugs and criminality

Despite being on an urbanistic forum, the Russians associate Colombia with drug traffic. How is this problem solved in your city?

The main problem of Colombia is corruption, the second – drugs, the third – violence. Yes, we had been selling drugs to the United States. But we are also consuming drugs. Very young people are consuming drugs, which is terrible problem for Colombia. How can we solve the problem? We try to educate people. We think education is the only way to make people stop doing drugs. I think if the United States stop consuming drugs, we won't to sell drugs to them. The main problem is that we have a close country that consumes drugs.

Earlier tourists were not recommended to visit Colombia because of its high criminality, drugs and a possibility to face violence and to be kidnapped. Tourist companies started to organise tours to the country a couple of years ago. Has the situation changed?

We have those problems. In reality, you can go to Colombia. We have very nice cities like Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, Cali and my city Pasto. There is no problem for foreigners. The problems are between those who are making and selling drugs. But the people are very nice.

'We have very nice cities like Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, Cali and my city Pasto. There is no problem for foreigners. The people are very nice.' Photo:

Today many words have been said about friendship, peace and tolerance between different social groups. Your city probably has people of different ethnicity. Have you ever had conflicts for racist, national or religious reasons?

We have people from different countries of South America. But we have almost one religion – Catholic church. Here you have so many different groups and a peaceful city. We have only one religion and so many problems.

Do you have Muslims?

No, we don't have any Muslims. We have some Catholic churches and Christian churches. That's all.

Today a mufti and metropolitan have visited the forum. They talked about people's friendship…

It doesn't matter what religion is. The most important thing is that all these religions involve values, principles. Muslims believe in their God, Christians believe in their God. All of them are looking for good things for all people. This is a reason they can talk together.

Is Kazan really perfect?

Mr Mayor, what similar problems do you have in your city?

We have so many problems in my city you don't have. For example, we have problems of transportation, public space, cleaning of the city.

Have you seen anything in Kazan that you would like to do in your city?

I wanna copy everything from Kazan: organisation, transportation, the green of the city, there are so many plants and trees. I'm going to ask you now: How many years did it take to make the city so beautiful? Was it a long process?

Unfortunately, I'm not going to see these changes in my city because it is gonna take much time. Kazan is different to Paris, Rome, London.

In brief, apart from what was created here in the Soviet era and in the 90s, many facilities appeared by the celebration of the millennium of the city. Moreover, Kazan hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade. The city transformed by this date too.

We want to have all these nice things in Colombia. I don't think it is easy to do what you did in 30 years. Unfortunately, I'm not going to see these changes in my city because it is gonna take much time. Kazan is different to Paris, Rome, London. Kazan is completely different. It is an example, Kazan is so beautiful and extraordinary.

In your opinion, what problems does Kazan have?

I did not see any problem. For me it is a perfect city. We see people from different countries. It is an example and a model to follow.

You should have lived in Kazan for a long time!

You can have some problems outside the downtown. Anyway, it is a modern city.

What would you do if you were Mayor of Kazan?

I think I would keep it in that way. It is easy to have it today, but tomorrow the situation might change. The Mayor must be worried about keeping the city in this way.

Communist Mayor

Have you ever been in Russia?

It is my first visit. Then I will spend two days in Moscow. I want to see the Red Square and the Kremlin. I visited the Kazan Kremlin yesterday but want to visit the famous Moscow Kremlin too.

Have you see the Kul Sharif Mosque?

Yes, yesterday we went over there. I have a lot of pictures. I think it is so beautiful. It is a surprise to see it.

When I was young as you are, you had a revolution, and Russia was a model to follow. Of course, we wanted to follow all Communists. I mean I'm from the Lefts. And it was a model. But the model was not like Kazan. I was thinking Kazan was a good city. And it's been a surprise for everybody. The organisation of the city is very good.

Thanks! It was very nice to talk to you.

By Timur Rakhmatullin. Author’s photos.

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