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Why the Secret Service is CRINGING at Hillary Clinton's Cartagena dancing pic in support of Sanna Marin

The visit in 2012 was riddled with controversies as Secret Service agents were accused of taking prostitutes back to their hotel
UPDATED AUG 30, 2022
Hillary Clinton shared a dancing picture in support of Finnish PM (Hillary Clinton/Twitter)
Hillary Clinton shared a dancing picture in support of Finnish PM (Hillary Clinton/Twitter)

Hillary Clinton recently backed Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin by sharing a throwback party picture from Cartagena. The Finnish PM has been receiving backlash due to a series of videos and pictures capturing her partying with friends. "As [former Texas Governor] Ann Richards said, 'Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels,'" Clinton wrote on Twitter while sharing a picture that made headlines back in April 2012.

Both Clinton and Marin garnered thousand of supportive messages although some users bashed them for various political reasons. However, the throwback picture has left the Secret Service cringing and the reason behind that goes back in time. The picture was taken at Café Havana in Cartagena, Colombia, during a visit that got mired in controversies. During the 2012 visit, Secret Service agents were accused of taking prostitutes back to their hotels. But what was the real scandal and why the Secret Service doesn't want to be reminded of Cartagena?


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The trip was marred by allegations of agents taking prostitutes back to their hotel rooms on the eve of former President Barack Obama’s arrival at a hemispheric summit. To celebrate the welcoming, Cartagena was transformed into a St Tropez of Colombia and decorated with lights to welcome the 30-plus heads of states. The visit soon turned controversial after news about the Secret Service’s behavior and then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s dancing pictures.

The controversy started after a plane carrying dozens of Secret Service agents landed in Columbia on April 11, 2012. The agents in the plane ranged in age and experience. From men in their twenties to pairs of supervisors in their forties arrived in Colombia to protect Obama at the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of 33 of the hemisphere’s leaders. After landing in the town, the agents split into groups and headed into town to explore the night as the president’s arrival was not due for more than 48 hours. Described as the Las Vegas of South America, the city was known for pulsing dance clubs, beautiful women, and legalized prostitution.

While some agents kept their profile low-key on the road and made their way to Egyptian-themed cafes, some agents bragged about being the security of the president and ended up at Cartagena’s Tu Candela. At the bar, the agents partied like rock stars, pounding drinks, dancing, buying bottles of vodka “like they were buying water,” and one agent even jumped on the top of a bar, recalled Suarez, an escort to went to an agent's hotel room that night. The agents took some women, alleged to be prostitutes, back to their hotel.

The whole affair came under scrutiny after a heated argument between an alleged prostitute and an agent, and local authorities were alerted to the incident at the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, officials told ABC News. After the argument, the authorities went to the reception desk to determine how many American men had checked in with females. Initially, that inspection led the hotel authorities to have questions about 22 Americans -- 17 Secret Service agents and five special operations soldiers who were there to assist the Secret Service, the official said. Their names were reported to the lead US military official on the ground.

All 22 inspectors in the agency’s internal-investigations division were assigned to the case; they worked weekends and overtime. "My understanding is that 11 secret service agents did bring women to their room and there was a dispute the next morning when one of the women did not leave their room," House Homeland Security Chairman Rep Peter King told ABC News. "One did not leave, police came and she refused to leave until she was paid for her services. So that is what started all this."

Soon the agents were suspended from their duty and faced serious charges but the scandal left an indelible mark on the proud image of the Secret Service. It’s important to remember what the episode wasn’t a legitimate risk to national security. There was never any credible evidence that President Obama’s security was compromised. There was no evidence, nor did anyone allege, that any of the 13 men had violated his oath to protect the commander in chief. If the Cartagena affair hadn’t become big news—and an embarrassment to the then president—many of the disgraced agents would probably still have their jobs.