Colombia mayors restrict World Cup merrymaking
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) Authorities in major Colombia cities are again imposing bans on alcohol and curfews for minors Saturday to discourage mayhem on a big World Cup game day. Some are even banning motorcycles.
The chief of citizen security for Colombia's national police, Gen. Jorge Nieto, told The Associated Press that thousands of extra officers would be on the streets of Bogota and other major cities when Colombia meets Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro for its first knockout round contest.
A 24-hour alcohol sales ban will be in effect for Colombia's capital and other cities. Only a few big cities, including Medellin and Barranquilla, are bucking the trend.
Mayors credit the measures with helping reduce vandalism and celebration-related deaths. They were imposed only after Colombia topped Greece in its first match on June 14 and nine people died.
Five days later, when Colombia bested Ivory Coast, the first restrictions were in place and police reported a death toll of two.
On Tuesday, when Colombia drubbed Japan, police reported just one violent death associated with World Cup merrymaking.
Mayor David Castillo of Cucuta, a provincial capital bordering Venezuela, barred unaccompanied minors from the streets that day. He added a new measure for Saturday.
''We are also going to ban motorcycles,'' he said by phone. `'There will be 60,000 motorcycles out of circulation, so there will be no convoys (mobs), and that way we'll avoid people throwing flour - and accidents.''
Cartagena, Cali and Pereira were among major cities also imposing motorcycle bans.
The controls did not sit well with many merchants.
`'We waited 16 years to get back in the World Cup and they surprise us with these `dry law' measures,'' said Guillermo Botero, president of the National Federation of Retailers. `'They are practically forcing us to shut ourselves up in our houses.''
He estimated $15 million in lost liquor and beer sales nationwide on Saturday. In 1998, the last time Colombia was in the tournament, there were no such alcohol bans.
However, there was a previous incident fueling the argument for restrictions to accompany any merrymaking.
On Sept, 5, 1993, the Colombian national team destroyed Argentina 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier. Colombian authorities reported 60 deaths nationwide in that day's wild celebrations.
Associated Press writer Libardo Cardona in Bogota and Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.