“Mothers, wives, daughters, citizens. Your life is more important than beauty.” That was the message last month from Dilian Francisca Toro, governor of southern Colombia’s Valle del Cauca region, which includes the city of Cali. She made her plea in a televised statement following the death of a young woman after apparently routine plastic surgery.

On 11 September, Gladys Gallego Obando, a 35-year-old beautician, was the ninth woman to die following surgery in the city this year, according to local newspaper El País Cali.

As more and more Colombian women seek to change their bodies through artificial means, cowboy operators are flourishing, corners are being cut and women are dying. This is a boom with a very dark side indeed.

The Mediplastic clinic, where Gallego Obando had her operation, has since been shut by the health authorities. An inspection the day after the ill-fated operation revealed it did not have adequate health and safety procedures in place, said a spokeswoman for the governor.

“We are going to keep on shutting down all medical providers that do not [meet] safety standards, because life is our primary concern,” Toro said. “Furthermore, we will keep insisting that those who wish to undergo plastic surgery procedures need to look for an authorised clinic.”

She is leading a campaign to make people aware of the dangers of unapproved clinics, which offer very cheap, but dangerous, operations. The slogan is, “Don’t pay for beauty with your life”.

However, awareness wouldn’t have saved Gallego Obando. She died in a government-authorised clinic.