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Mayor defends Secret Service agents

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP):

Days after US Secret Service agents were sent home over allegations of hard-partying and bringing prostitutes to their hotel, the mayor of this Caribbean city was wondering what all the fuss was all about.

After all, prostitution is legal in Colombia, and it's a big draw of this steamy Caribbean port where sex is as easy to buy as a bottle of beer.

"It doesn't bother people at all," Mayor Campo Elias said on Tuesday, echoing many of his constituents. "First, because adults were involved and, second, because here, it's normal."

To find a prostitute, guests at the hotel where the Secret Service agents stayed ahead of President Barack Obama's recent visit need only step out to the beach. There, scrappy men peddle everything from shrimp cocktails to sex workers.

"I think prostitution is part of the city's culture. That is, a tourist comes to Cartagena and it's part of his plan to look for company," said Gerardo Javier May, a security industry executive.

In Washington Tuesday, Secret Service officials began briefing US Congress members over allegations that agents took prostitutes to their hotel before the Summit of Americas attended last weekend by Obama.