Bieber paints colourful reminder of Colombian states of persecution and privilege
With a colourful dash of spray paint on a Bogotá wall, Canadian rock star Justin Bieber has illustrated the painful contrast between the persecution Colombians receive in their own land, with the privilege foreigners receive.
Graffiti is illegal in Colombia, and the “graffiteros” who splash the Colombian capital with political and social messages risk violence, even execution at the hands of police.
Bieber, however, received a police escort when he painted a message of support for another troubled rocker. He also left behind a stylized Canadian flag, with a marijuana leaf replacing the iconic maple leaf.
Bieber painted his messages on the side of a tunnel surrounded by Bogotá police, who were present to protect the Canadian during his Colombian stop on his South American tour.
Diego Felipe Becerra, then 16, was murdered by a member of the same police force in 2011 when he was found painting graffiti. Graffiti artists risk more than fines in Colombia. They often work in groups and masked when painting political slogans.
Felipe Becerra´s father Gustavo Trejos complained to Bogota´s El Espectador how the police escort for Bieber demonstrated the persecution of Colombians and the privilege shown foreigners, especially the wealthy.
Trejos noted Colombian youth are sent to prison to clean bathrooms, while foreigners receive police protection for the same behaviour.
Senator Camilo Romero Galeano condemned police for escorting the spray-painting Bieber.
“Diego Felipe Becerra … did not receive protection, he received the opposition. He received a gunshot which caused his death,” Romero Galeano told the newspaper.
It´s quite fashionable sport to criticize Bieber these days, but if his brief fling as a Bogotá “grafitero” brings attention to the murder of Felipe Becerra and to the inequity Colombians face, his star power will have served the needy.
To view photos or a video of Bieber’s Bogotá graffiti please see:
To read a earlier report about Diego Felipe Becerra, please read: https://davidhogben.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/bullet-in-bogota-graffiti-artists-back-the-price-of-youthful-political-expression/