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US told to apologize for tarnishing Cartagena's image

Mexico,Crime/Disaster/Accident, Fri, 27 Apr 2012 IANS

Bogota, April 27 (IANS) The Colombian government has asked the US for an apology for tarnishing the image of Cartagena, a key Caribbean resort on the northern coast of Colombia, over a prostitution scandal involving US Secret Service agents and military personnel.


The request was made known Thursday by Gabriel Silva, the current ambassador of Colombia to the US, in an interview with the daily El Tiempo website.


In the interview, the Colombian envoy said he also asked the White House to make a clear statement "to protect the reputation of Cartagena", reported Xinhua.



Cartagena hosted the 6th Summit of the Americas April 14-15, an event that gathered more than 30 heads of state and government, including US President Barack Obama, whose advance security team had to be recalled after it was revealed that some of them had taken prostitutes back to their hotel rooms.


According to an ongoing investigation launched in the US, security agents sent ahead of Obama's arrival took as many as 21 women back to their rooms. One of the women later complained to police because of a payment dispute, turning the incident into a public embarrassment that diverted much of the press coverage from the summit.


So far, 12 secret service agents, along with 12 other military personnel, have been implicated and are put under investigation, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has also been called before the Senate Judiciary Committee.


The scandal has put Cartagena's sex tourism in the spotlight, which local and national Colombian authorities say paints an incomplete picture of the resort and damages its reputation.


Silva said it was unfair that Cartagena's image had to be tarnished "by disciplinary acts" that are of domestic concern to the US and the White House should offer an apology.



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