In Colombia, some not-so-secret and unpaid service

Sandra Hernandez – As far as international diplomatic meetings go, the Summit of the Americas in the Colombian seaside city of Cartagena that concluded last weekend may not have produced any memorable initiatives or free-trade agreements, at least not as part of the official agenda.

U.S. Secret Service agents walk around Cartagena, Colombia, days before the launch of the Summit of the Americas. (Fernando Llano / Associated Press / April 14, 2012)

But unofficially, the summit managed to grab headlines after allegations surfaced that U.S. Secret Service agents assigned to pre-arrival security detail for President Obama may have engaged in misconduct, including hiring prostitutes.

The scandal broke after one woman felt shortchanged and complained that an agent who took her back to his Cartagena hotel failed to pay for services performed, according to published accounts.

Prostitutes walk a street of the old city, as heads of state met for the Americas Summit in Cartagena April 14, 2012. Headlines from this weekend’s gathering of more than 30 heads of state have focused on an embarrassing scandal after members of U.S. President Barack Obama’s security detail were caught with prostitutes in historic Cartagena. Picture taken April 14. Reuters

The scandal has left military officials red-faced, and some in Congress are demanding a fuller inquiry. Clearly, questions about security breaches are legitimate. As are some reports that suggest the men boasted they were providing security for the American delegation at the summit. It seems the operative word in the job description — secret — was not followed.

But it’s interesting to note that at least one group is taking issue with their alleged role in the sex scandal. Escort clubs in Colombia are legal in some areas, including in parts of Cartagena.

Some newspaper reports have said that the American men met the women at El Pey Club, an escort club in Cartagena. Now an accountant at the club, Leonardo Quintero, is questioning whether the agents in fact visited the club. Quintero told the Miami Herald that El Pey has a pay-before-you-play policy, and thus a fight over money sounded unlikely.

Other employees at other clubs also defended their business practices.

One man, identified only as Fabio, an employee of the Prepago 1000, or Prepaid 1000 club, told the paper that patrons of reputable clubs just don’t get “those kind of surprises.”

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