CARTAGENA, Colombia — The Secret Service sex scandal has spawned X-rated jokes, inspired a spicy song set to a Caribbean beat and made an unlikely celebrity of a 42-year-old taxi driver who lives with his mother.
With no other leads locally, scoop-hungry journalists fought all week for the favor of Jose Pena, president of the Hotel Caribe taxi stand who happened to drive home the prostitute who set the scandal in motion.
Fiercely competitive reporters from tabloids to TV networks accused one another of bidding up Pena's fees. He would disappear for hours in the employ of one or another, spurned reporters redialing him incessantly, filling his voicemail box with entreaties.
It was Pena, after all, who led journalists to the two-family house on a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of town where he said the woman lived with her 9-year-old son.
And he described how the woman told him a Secret Service agent refused to pay her full fee and locked his door at the five-star hotel the morning of April 12.
"He's the most important man in the world this week," joked fellow taxi driver William Jimenez.
Jokes from Colombians at the Americans' expense abounded on Twitter and Facebook. One tied the charge that an agent had shortchanged a prostitute with the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement announced just after the summit:
"I don't think any mistake was made. They thought that now that the FTA was approved there was no need to pay tariffs."