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Colombia Sex Travel Gets Publicity Boost From Secret Service Scandal

April 20, 2012 at 2:02 PM | by | ()

Three Secret Service agents have already lost their jobs over the Colombia prostitution scandal, and the news this afternoon is that more resignations are expected. Secret Service director Mark Sullivan has ordered a "comprehensive" investigation of the trip, which will involve interviewing every agent, every hotel staffer, and every women involved. The phrase "underage prostitutes" has now been introduced into the mix, threatening to take the whole thing thermonuclear. The clusterfark is, in other words, a disaster for everyone involved.

Except of course for Colombia's sex travel industry, which is being showered with attention. Yes the Colombian government is embarrassed, since the country would prefer to be known for pretty much anything else. But even people who are indignant recognize that the summit the Secret Service agents were scouting - the 6th Summit of the Americas hosted by Colombia - essentially became a $35 million sex tourism commercial.

It turns out that the sex industry in Colombia is off the charts even by Latin American standards. Prostitution is legal in many parts of the country, so much so that Colombia has become known as the "Thailand of Latin America." Hotels not only expect guests to bring back prostitutes but have rules about how long they can stay. Some hotels just rent out rooms directly to hookers, and pocket some of the profits.

The sex work culture is so extensive that people talk easily about status and hierarchy. One of the reasons that the woman in the Secret Service scandal went ballistic is because she was being treated like a "prostitute" instead of an "escort." Quote: "You have higher rank... An escort is someone who a man can take out to dinner. She can dress nicely, wear nice makeup, speak and act like a lady. Thatís me... Itís like when you buy a fine rum or a BlackBerry or an iPhone."

So now you know the difference, and knowing is half the battle. The other half is not getting caught with a hooker because you're too cheap to pay while you're on assignment for the President of the United States. That part's important too. Or just, you know, not doing it. That's also always an option.

[Photo: Alluz / Flickr]

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