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Colombia’s Ministry of Transport announced August 12 that Medellin’s José María Córdova (JMC) international airport in suburban Rionegro will host six “pilot test” passenger routes -- once airlines obtain takeoff/landing “slots” from the Aerocivil regulatory agency.

“After being approved for the pilot plan by the Interior Ministry, the airlines must request from Aerocivil the itineraries and slots to start the commercialization of the flights,” according to Airplan, the operator of JMC airport.

First out of the gate, Medellin-based EasyFly announced August 13 that at JMC it will begin daily flights to/from Bucaramanga and to/from Pereira starting Tuesday, August 18.

The newly approved “pilot” routes will connect JMC to-and-from Palonegro de Lebrija airport (Bucaramanga), Camilo Daza airport (Cúcuta), Matecaña airport (Pereira), La Nubia airport (Manizales), El Edén airport (Armenia) and Gustavo Rojas Pinilla airport (San Andrés island).

However, before any flights can begin, “all the recommendations of the biosafety protocols of the Ministry of Health must be followed,” added Transport Minister Ángela María Orozco.

As an extra precaution, passengers booking flights between these seven cities are supposed to “take an antigen test or [get a] certificate of the other diagnostic or confirmatory alternatives, a maximum of two days prior to the flight.”

This new test requirement is an “additional measure to what is established in the [Health Ministry passenger flight] protocols,” according to an August 11 Interior Ministry order authorizing the new “pilot” flights to-and-from JMC airport.

According to a July 16, 2020 bulletin from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), “antigen tests usually provide results diagnosing an active Coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests [PCR tests, the type most used in Colombia and the U.S.], but antigen tests have a higher chance of missing an active infection. If an antigen test shows a negative result indicating that you do not have an active coronavirus infection,[then]  your health care provider may order a molecular test to confirm the result.”

As for antibody (serology) tests, such tests “may provide quick results, but should not be used to diagnose an active infection,” according to FDA. “Antibody tests only detect antibodies the immune system develops in response to the virus, not the virus itself. It can take days to several weeks to develop enough antibodies to be detected in a test.”

By contrast, while PCR molecular tests are by far the most reliable for Covid-19 detection, actual reporting of PCR test results typically take several days or even a full week in Colombia (and in most of the U.S.), because PCR test labs here are currently overwhelmed.

Hence a PCR test doesn’t seem a practical option for meeting the new Interior Ministry rule requiring passengers to get a Covid-19 test result within two days prior to a booked flight.

According to the Health Ministry, the other mandatory biosafety protocols for these new flights include:

1. Passengers must arrive a maximum of two hours in advance of the scheduled time of their flight, and with their electronic check-in ready to avoid delays and congestion.
2. Passengers should only carry personal luggage, bags or small backpacks that can be stored under the passenger seat. The rest of the luggage will go into the plane’s baggage compartment.
3. Passengers should have already downloaded the CoronApp-Colombia application onto their cell phones, with all required information filled out.
4. Only passengers and those who work at the airport can enter the terminal. 
5. Temperature control will be carried out for all persons entering an airport and upon the arrival of flights.
6. “All people, without exception, passengers and workers who are in an airport must use personal protection elements (face masks).”
7. All airport users, crews and employees are obliged to respect the physical distance of two meters in areas such as counters, scanners and in the lines to board aircraft.
8. Boarding will be authorized only when the aircraft is ready.
9. Inside the aircraft, on-board service will not be provided, and travelers will be asked not to use inflight entertainment systems such as screens, mobile phones, among others. As far as possible, aircraft toilets should not be used.
10. Passengers and crew will wear masks at all times during the flight.
11. Passengers must remain seated during the flight.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced August 11 that it just filed a COP$5.383 trillion (US$1.44 billion) claim against Mapfre Insurance (Colombia) as part of parallel conciliation procedures that seek to resolve an estimated US$2.6 billion in losses resulting from a 2018 tunnel collapse at the Hidroituango hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

The claim against Mapfre is a “request for prejudicial conciliation” in a Medellin Administrative Court “based on the occurrence of a loss in the ‘Construction All Risk Policy’” that EPM had previously bought to protect itself against potential damages and losses during and after construction of its 2.4-gigawatt, US$5 billion Hidroituango project, according to EPM.

The April 28, 2018 collapse of the "auxiliary deviation gallery" (GAD) diversion tunnel inside the Hidroituango project resulted in both physical and financial damages “that have been estimated, to date, in a sum close to COP$10 trillion [US$2.6 billion],” according to EPM.

“Taking into account the coverage, protections and limits of the [Mapfre] policy, the claims of the conciliation request amount to the sum of COP$5.383 trillion [US$1.44 billion],” according to EPM.

EPM previously had announced a parallel conciliation process involving Hidroituango’s construction and design contractors as well as their insurors --Suramericana and Chubb (see Medellin Herald August 10, 2020).

EPM Board Resigns in Protest

Meanwhile, EPM’s entire board -- except for Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero -- announced August 10 that they have resigned en-masse in protest over EPM general manager Alvaro Guillermo Rendon and Mayor Quintero’s failure to consult them in transcendental decisions -- including the new Hidroituango conciliation process as well as a prior proposed scheme that would radically alter EPM’s entire business model (see Medellin Herald July 3, 2020).

While EPM and the Mayor legally are required to consult with the Medellin City Council on transcendental matters affecting city-owned EPM, the company’s management also “ought to discuss in detail and seek the counsel of the Board of Directors” before making radical decisions, according to the joint letter of resignation signed by the board members.

“We are worried that [top EPM management] are not observing good practices of corporate governance that have characterized Grupo Empresarial EPM,” the letter continues.

Rather than embarking on far-reaching schemes without prior Board consultation, EPM instead ought to prioritize completion of the Hidroituango project, successfully integrate the recently acquired “Caribe Mar” power utility in northern Colombia, and focus on Covid-19 impacts that potentially threaten the finances of its power customers, according to their letter.

Given the “repeated ignoring of the Board of Directors, we are obliged to present our resignation,” the letter concludes.

EPM Management Response

Reacting to the Board resignation, EPM filed an August 11 statement with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency giving its response.

In the statement, EPM claims that the earlier joint proposal (since withdrawn) by EPM and Mayor Quintero that would radically alter EPM’s business model “had been presented to the board members” even though “the competence for the reform of the statutes is not the Board of Directors, but the City Council, at the initiative of the Mayor.”

In addition, decisions about the new Hidroituango conciliation scheme “did not belong to the Board of Directors,” according to the EPM filing.  What's more, the conciliation decision bypassed the Board because “the terms conferred by the procedural regulations for submitting claims were close to being fulfilled, under penalty of expiration” by a crucial deadline, according to EPM.

Antioquia’s Business Associations Rip EPM Leadership

Meanwhile, the influential “Comite Intergremial de Antioquia” (the Inter-Trade Committee of Antioquia) -- which includes all 29 of Antioquia’s main business trade associations and all five Chambers of Commerce -- issued an August 12 bulletin denouncing EPM’s top management for actions that triggered the EPM Board’s mass resignation.

“We consider [EPM management’s] ignoring of its statutory Board of Directors in matters of enormous and strategic transcendence -- ignoring basic and fundamental aspects of the norms of its own corporate governance -- puts at risk the stability and interests of the institution,” according to the Committee bulletin.

The resulting mass resignation of the Board “generates a loss of credibility in the management of the enterprise, gravely affecting its operation, its relationship with lenders and investors, triggering future problems that will result in dire social and economic consequences that will affect millions of persons,” according to the group.

“The Inter-Trade Committee of Antioquia respectfully requests a clear, coherent and sensible explanation on behalf of the legal representative of [EPM] about this confused, questionable and unfortunate situation.”

Because of the EPM Board’s mass resignation, “we announce a decision to promote immediately the formation of a Civic Committee which, acting in oversight, will jealously guard the interests of EPM -- which are the interests of Medellin and Antioquia -- and [the Committee] will act solely under technical and sensible criteria, opposing and denouncing irregular actions,” the bulletin concludes.


Medellin-based national clothing and fashion-industry trade group Inexmoda announced August 5 that that the just-concluded, 31st annual “Colombiamoda” fashion show here – forced to go virtual because of the Covid-19 crisis – attracted 220,000 visitors through its www.colombiamoda.com internet platform.

Aside from the thousands of Colombian designers, producers and suppliers attending this year’s show, international attendees included representatives from Perú, Ecuador, Costa Rica, USA, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Brazil, Panama, Puerto Rico, Perú, Portugal and Uruguay, according to Inexmoda.

In total, 455 clothing brands showed their wares to 2,500 national and 700 international buyers, via 4,400 Inexmoda-organized business meetings.

In addition, University Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) and Inexmoda organized 27 technical and fashion-trends conferences that attracted 74,000 visitors through various digital platforms for this year’s show.

Colombiamoda 2020 also included five “master class” sessions, 15 workshops and 21 expert-advisor sessions on consumer trends, digital marketing and sustainable business.

“Technology played in our favor and became the essential tool to create experiences around business, fashion and knowledge,” stated Carlos Eduardo Botero, Inexmoda executive president.

The all-virtual edition of Colombiamoda 2020 “was full of challenges and learning. Today we are pleased to have made the right decision to transform Colombiamoda, since it also allowed us to discover a path full of opportunities that deserve to continue to be evaluated,” he added.

At Colombiamoda 2020, “the garments with the highest demand have been underwear, sportswear, casual clothing, pajamas and beachwear, and the countries that have participated the most have been those from the Caribbean, the United States and Ecuador,” added ProColombia president Flavia Santoro, who heads-up Colombia's international business-promotion efforts.

“The great response from foreign demand confirms that Colombia continues to position itself as a trusted provider, even amid current circumstances,” Santoro added.


Former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez (2016-2019) once again is helping to move Medellin into the limelight via an interview published in the latest edition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Finance & Development monthly magazine.

The former Mayor – now a national political commentator and seen as a likely pre-candidate for Colombia’s Presidential elections in 2022 – enjoyed a well-recognized reputation here as an unpretentious, transparent, bright and exuberant person who was happiest -- often actually joyous -- when meeting and listening to ordinary citizens, especially when walking around Medellin’s poorest neighborhoods.

Yet Gutiérrez – a soft-spoken, political moderate – simultaneously was just as comfortable dealing with the city’s business-sector movers-and-shakers -- and he showed notable facility in intellectual debates on public policy, economic issues and consensus-making.

Below is the IMF interview published in its entirety:

Former Mayor Federico Gutiérrez Discusses how Prioritizing Security and Sustainability Paved the Way for a 21st Century City
Volume 57, Number 2
International Monetary Fund Finance & Development (F&D) In The Trenches

In 1991, Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest urban area, was the world’s most violent city. Today, the “City of Eternal Spring” is internationally recognized as one of the most innovative, inclusive, and sustainable cities in the world.

Federico Gutiérrez, born in Medellín in 1974 at the advent of Colombia’s violent period of armed conflict, was the city’s mayor from January 2016 until January 2020—helping spearhead many efforts to cement the city’s future as one of peace and prosperity. He credits the determination and unity shown by the people of Medellín for their commitment to overcoming violence and conflict, which has won their city accolades and admiration.

Speaking with Finance & Development’s (F&D) Marjorie Henríquez for our latest issue of F&D, Gutiérrez shares his thoughts on the city’s remarkable transformation over the past three decades.

F&D: What was the turning point for Medellín?

Gutierrez: In the 1980s and 1990s our society hit rock bottom with the tragedy of narcoterrorism. In 1991 we recorded a homicide rate of 381 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Today the rate is approximately 20 per 100,000 inhabitants -- a 95% decrease. Although the only acceptable figure is zero, we have achieved significant progress in curbing violence and ensuring respect for life.

As to whether there was a specific turning point, that is complicated and open to debate. Ever since businesspeople decided to stay in Medellín in the 1980s and 1990s -- not giving in to the violence -- we began to develop a vital strategy rooted in teamwork. The business fabric of our city is extremely solid, and this can be explained to a great extent by the difficulties that the private sector had to face in order to survive. In the midst of violence, staying was a great act of bravery.

There were no shortcuts, but there were practical solutions. One of the latter involved partnerships between the public sector, private sector, academia, and civil society. Teamwork as a society was a determining factor in the city’s social transformation. The mafia upended our values: it turned hard and honest work into easy money, sobriety into opulence and, worst of all, it took the value out of life and instead put a price on it. Though we still have a long way to go, we have started recovering such values as life, respect, and freedom.

In fewer than three decades, Medellín has become a benchmark for the world. It is a socially innovative city that is today an affiliate center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution for Latin America, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Experiencing the worst things possible as a society has made us stronger and more resilient. Medellín is a city that acknowledges its past, takes pride in its present, and above all, views its future optimistically.

F&D: As mayor, what were your key priorities?

Gutierrez: A government’s priorities must, in some way, be the priorities of the people. For us, they were education, security, and sustainability.

We had the highest education budget in Medellín’s history. With one of the flagship programs, we managed to return more than 8,000 children who were outside the educational system for various reasons to the classrooms. We also gave more than 43,000 scholarships for higher education. That is the best strategy for security in the long term—giving opportunities to succeed within the framework of legality.

On security, we dealt forceful blows to structures that had been operating for decades. The security issue is still quite complex. There is criminality, but it is much quieter than that of the cartels of the 1980s and 1990s. Our approach involves more than police strategies—it is a comprehensive model that provides opportunities and builds trust, fights crime, and focuses on strategic social investment by the state where there had previously been a vacuum, allowing lawlessness to prevail.

On sustainability, the first thing we did was to put air quality on the city’s agenda. Due to Medellín’s topography and winds, air quality decreases significantly twice a year: March and October. Institutions had the data on this for years without sharing it with the public. People thought smog was haze. We started by openly recognizing the problem. Then we set out to become Latin America’s capital of sustainable mobility: we added 65 electric buses to the city’s fleet, and the older buses were renovated with clean technologies.

New Metrocables (the city’s gondola lift system), 80 kilometers of new bike paths, and more sidewalks. We finished the technical, legal, and financial structuring of a new tram in the western part of the city. We also started a pilot of 100% electric taxis. I am an advocate of public transportation. Few things are more democratic than a good public space and a good system of mass public transport.

We also created 36 green corridors that open up the most congested roads in the city, and we planted more than 890,000 trees.

F&D: Describe some of Medellín’s most innovative achievements.

Gutierrez: Some call what has happened here ‘The Medellín miracle.’ But this was no miracle. It reflects many years of hard work.

For example, with the help of the business sector, we launched ‘Weaving Homes’ (Tejiendo Hogares), a commitment to building social fabric through training in positive discipline for families.

We understood that it was useless to have the best neighborhood infrastructure if what happened inside homes included violence against women and children.

We also launched Medellín Embraces Its History (Medellín abraza su historia) to memorialize the fight for the culture of legality, which included an upgrade to the House of Memory Museum, filming documentaries, and demolishing the Monaco building -- Pablo Escobar’s former residence -- to create space for a memorial park honoring narcoterrorism victims. We also created Parceros -- “Buddies” -- a program focused on recovering young people from criminal activity.

We have built an institutional framework to support social investment. Successive administrations have given continuity to city projects with the understanding that things do not simply start afresh every four years with an election.

F&D: How did you ensure that Medellín stayed on track?

Gutierrez: Medellín’s success is based on its people and shared trust. The long-term process of rebuilding the city is a collective endeavor. Nobody succeeds in isolation.

The first step was to acknowledge results achieved in the past, continuing but also building on them, bearing in mind that a leader’s time in office is short. We improved the quality of life, as shown by the fact that we have reached our highest point in the multidimensional quality of life index.

We invested resources efficiently and transparently where needed—not where we would have garnered the most votes. We took action in areas where the city continues to reap benefits even today: fighting crime and standing up for law and order, raising awareness about the environment and air quality, curbing the school dropout rate, making a bid to become a Latin American champion for sustainable mobility, and showcasing Medellín as an affiliate center for the fourth industrial revolution.

F&D: How did you learn about the people’s needs?

Gutierrez: For years I walked the streets of Medellín, talking to people even before I became mayor. As a leader, you must know how to listen, put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, and understand their daily struggles.


Antioquia Acting Governor Fernando Suarez announced August 4 via his Twitter account that he has now recovered from Covid-19 infection and released from hospital.

Last week, the governor had suffered a "decrease in respiratory capacity as a result of the contagion with Covid and was preventively admitted to general hospitalization,” according to a press bulletin from the Antioquia departmental government.

However, more than 14 days have passed since the initial infection, and having overcome all prior symptoms, doctors have now declared Suarez "Covid-free," he said.

Earlier, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero had announced July 28 that following a July 24 initial test, a follow-up test confirmed that he also was infected by Covid-19 – just one week after Antioquia Governor Luis Fernando Suarez was hit by the virus. Then, on August 9, Mayor Quintero announced that another follow-up test confirmed that he no longer is infected and so he has returned to a normal work schedule.

Medellin Gets Extra Covid-19 Physician Support

On a related front, Mayor Quintero announced July 27 that Medellin just won extra physician support to confront a continuing surge of Covid-19 cases, following a special reunion with officials of Colombia’s principal medical trade associations.

The Colombian Society and the Antioquia Society of Anesthesiology and Reanimation, the Colombian Association of Critical Medicine and Intensive Care, the Colombian Society of Emergency and Emergency Specialists, and the Colombian Association of Internal Medicine all made “commitments that will allow providing complete health care to patients who require it in the following stages of the pandemic,” according to the Mayor.

Under the new arrangement, local hospitals just committed to adapting an additional 95 ICU beds, in addition to recent capacity expansions.

What’s more, each ICU physician that previously was responsible for overseeing 12 to 13 patients “will have a support team of anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, chief nurses, general surgeons, among others, to achieve care of between 20 and 40 patients” per ICU specialist.

The new agreement heads-off a political gaffe by the Mayor when last week he proposed inviting hundreds of Cuban doctors to come to Medellin to help address the Covid-19 surge – a proposal publicly backed by left-wing demagogue Senator Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla trained by the Cuban Communist government.

Problem: Colombia hasn’t verified the qualifications of any Cuban “doctors” for expertise in treating Covid-19 patients, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced.

What’s more, previous investigations have revealed that the Cuban government takes 60% of the salaries paid to its “volunteer” doctors sent overseas -- principally to prop up the near-bankrupt Communist dictatorship. In addition, at least one Cuban "doctor" posted overseas has been discovered spying on military installations.

Colombian medical associations had criticized the Mayor’s proposal because the Mayor hadn’t first consulted with Colombian medical associations on alternative ways to boost Covid-19 response capacity -- using existing Colombian physicians and support personnel.


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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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