Michael Fumento jailed in Colombia on trumped up charges
It's pretty well anyone's worst travel nightmare: getting picked up by the cops on trumped up charges and then thrown into a third-world prison under horrific Midnight Express conditions.
This just happened to conservative journalist Michael Fumento, a friend, who went to Colombia to settle up on unfinished business regarding the sale of his house in Bucaramanga, Colombia, a place where he lived and wrote for four years. He didn't like the place and just wanted to pull up all stakes and completely get out.
Fumento is a decorated veteran and former embed reporter for Fox News who worked in combat zones. He's a science and health writer who specializes in blowing apart leftist shibboleths. His Wikipedia page is here, with this summary of his best known work:
Claire Berlinski, a well known writer in her own right, wrote this on her Facebook:
Hi. Anyone who knows Michael Fumento will be somehow unsurprised by the e-mail I received this morning from his friend Matt Kaufman. I'm reposting it at his request and looking for advice about what I might do that could genuinely be useful. Does anyone have a contact number for the Colombia desk at State? Mike asks that you *not* contact him directly unless you can help in a special way. Obviously, feel free to share widely. This is no doubt all true. (Lourdes Fernandez, sounds like a Spanish speaker might be useful. I'll ask.)
Re: URGENT: MIKE FUMENTO IN SERIOUS DANGER
Mike is in a cell at a police station in Colombia and at risk of being sent into their brutal prison system, possibly VERY quickly – and that's a place where you can be killed, and the fate of a gringo is especially grim. Those of you who are social-media savvy need to publicize this.
There's no time to tell the whole story, but he recently returned for what was supposed to be a brief trip to resolve old financial business from the years he lived there. One person has had him arrested, and made numerous accusations which Mike tells me a whole crowd of witnesses could easily refute – but likely won't. The accuser is local and powerful/feared. Mike is just the gringo.
Mike is trying to reach a local lawyer, but attorneys (like Colombians in general in his experience) can be highly unreliable. This is a country where the law very often amounts to whatever someone in a position of power says it is. He's alone in a dismal cell at, with no access to anything he owns – not even the things he has back at a hotel. He has no family or friends there. He's going to court Tuesday (today, the day you read this), and doesn't know whether it's just a preliminary hearing or an actual trial. He doesn't know the system.
It's not certain whether the U.S. Embassy will help in the case of an arrest: I'll try. My ability to help is very limited: I can't speak Spanish, and the most I can do with people in Colombia is send emails to locals using an online translation program. My ability to communicate with Mike is very sporadic. He has only occasional access to his phone/email, which could be cut off at any time. When I spoke to him, it was from the police station's number, which I had to call. I'm not exaggerating when I say that any time I hear from him might – for all I know – be the last time. For me, or for anyone. We're in the realm of the unknown.
Mike's best hope of not disappearing down a hole very quickly may be for people to know about him. He asks all of you who have Facebook to make people you know aware of this.
I will keep you posted as best I can.
The facts are muddy, and I don't know anything more than this article in the Canada Free Press and the various posts about it on Facebook. But he's in jail; that's for sure. The U.S. embassy has not contacted him, as it is legally bound to do within a 48-hour period. (I recall there was news about an Obama operative about to be sent to run it. But the current ambassador, Kevin Whitacre, is a good guy. I used to deal with him a lot before he got his ambassador post, and don't think it's political – just dereliction of duty by lower-level officers.) Meanwhile, the arson charges are very, very strange. There's no way he's an arsonist. If he doesn't like something, he complains, sometimes excessively; he doesn't do crazed lunatic going-off-the-deep-end acts and never has. What I read on Facebook suggests that he angered some of the local elites based on his house sale, and one of them sicced the cops on him over the false arson charge. The Canada Free Press item says it was a random police incident with mistaken identity and the event happened in Bogota, not Bucaramanga. So the facts are still fluid.
But it is a crisis, and he needs and asks for help. His trial is supposedly tomorrow, and he's all alone down there, with not even an expat base to help him out in the provinces. He asks Americans to help him by phoning the U.S. embassy in Bogota at 011-57-1-275-2000 and asking them to assist him. Pressure of this kind will help.