Skip to Content
chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up chevron-right chevron-left arrow-back star phone quote checkbox-checked search wrench info shield play connection mobile coin-dollar spoon-knife ticket pushpin location gift fire feed bubbles home heart calendar price-tag credit-card clock envelop facebook instagram twitter youtube pinterest yelp google reddit linkedin envelope bbb pinterest homeadvisor angies

BOGOTA, Colombia — Their names he never knew, but their faces he could never forget. At the end of every month, men using aliases such as “Smelly Feet” and “Grandpa” casually slipped into the backseat of his unlicensed taxi, a rusting 1985 Chevette, to demand their payment.

For years, drivers of pirate cabs in the sprawling slum of Usme, on the southern outskirts of Bogota, had no choice but to pay up. Either that or risk watching extorters set ablaze their cars or hurt their loved ones.

“Whenever I left my house I looked behind my back,” said the driver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fear for his safety. Eventually, he mustered the courage to denounce the racket to police who, months later, launched an armed sweep.

“They were so sure of themselves,” he said, recalling with fright the terror he lived with. “They never thought they’d be caught.”

For many Colombians, the threat of such shakedowns remains.

Learn More