CARTAGENA, Colombia • A Secret Service agent preparing for President Barack Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse.
“I tell him, ‘Baby, my cash money,’” the woman said in her first public comments on a spat that would soon spiral into a full-blown scandal.
The dispute was that he offered $30 for services she thought they had agreed were worth 25 times that, and it set off an early morning struggle in the hallway of the hotel involving the woman, another prostitute, Colombian police officers arguing on the women’s behalf and U.S. agents who tried but failed to keep the matter from escalating.
Sitting on a couch in her living room, the woman described how she and a girlfriend were approached by a group of U.S. men at a discotheque. In an account that tracked with the official version of events coming out of Washington, but could not be independently confirmed, she said the men bought a bottle of Absolut vodka for the table and when that was finished bought a second one.
“They never told me they were with Obama,” she said. “They were very discreet.”
There was a language gap between the 24-year-old woman, who declined to give her full name, and the U.S. man who sat beside her all night and eventually invited her back to his room. She agreed, stopped on the way to buy condoms but told him he would have to give her a gift. He asked how much. Not knowing he worked for Obama but figuring he was a well-heeled foreigner, she said, she told him $800.
The price alone, she said, indicates that she is an escort, not a prostitute.
“You have higher rank,” she said. “An escort is someone who a man can take out to dinner. She can dress nicely, wear nice makeup, speak and act like a lady. That’s me.”
The woman veered between anger and fear as she told of her misadventure.
“This is something really big,” she said. “This is the government of the United States. I have nervous attacks. I cry all the time.”
The Secret Service declined to comment on the woman’s account.