Sergio Fajardo and the Rebirth of Medellín

Metrocable Medellín integrates communities in need. Photo by EMBARQ Brazil.

This post was originally published in Portuegese by Maria Fernanda Cavalcanti on TheCityFix Brasil on December 1, 2011. 

For Sergio Fajardo, the former mayor of Medellín (2004-2007) and now governor-elect of Antioch (2012-2014), all government action must be strategically linked to solving fundamental problems of social inequality, violence and a culture of lawlessness. His work seeks to reduce the door to violence and increase people’s happiness. It’s about getting out of fear and renewing hope, through science, knowledge, culture, innovation and entrepreneurship.

His transformative work has a physical component in public spaces, with decent housing and social facilities, which are a catalyst for change. They rehabilitate and connect communities, eliminate invisible barriers and implement complete streets, with priority for pedestrians and without architectural barriers, so that everyone can enjoy the space. The new facilities are social human spaces, cultural centers (like libraries), schools, houses of justice, health centers and sports fields, among others, with the highest possible quality. And new homes are well-made, decent and “environmentally friendly.”

All of these actions have an element of public participation in their development, and they are defined according to the specific needs of each area involved. As the budget is limited, management focuses on these strategic problems: unequal, violent, illegal. And the transformative impact is enormous, as indicated by Duver and Johan, two children who told us the history of a Santo Domingo district: “The violence is over, now the neighborhood is cooler, with an integrated lift to the subway, a better school, library, recovered streams and a synthetic football field. ”

None of this is easy and requires political leadership, technical staff and high-level commitments and resources for preparing and doing things right. After Fajardo, Medellín had a line of continuity in the next administration, led by Alonso Salazar (2008-2012.) Once priorities were set, some new lines of action were created, which was fundamental to keep things going.

The recent election of a politician with the same actions and thinking as Fajardo is Aníbal Gaviria (2012-2014), who already served for the Government of Antioquia (2004-2007). This trend shows us that “Medellín Imparable” (“Unstoppable Medellín”) will keep going. Viva Medellín!

EMBARQ experts in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and U.S. had the opportunity to share some time with Sergio Fajardo during his recent Medellín visit, and begin to understand the importance of mass transit in the sub-normal settlements in the form of cable cars, integrated with public space, facilities and housing. But Fajardo did not invent the cable car; he used it in his global strategy based on decency, dignity and respect for all people. Fajardo’s successor launched a second cable line in the New West in 2009. Now the Metro of Medellín is building a third corridor in the East with a tramway and a cable car, and the city is preparing for all the new transit interventions, in which a cable car is not just a cable car but an urban transformer.

Anibal Gaviria and Sergio Fajardo.

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