Thursday, October 22, 2020

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Roberto Peckham

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced October 19 that the “Mar 1” highway project connecting Medellin westward to current and future Atlantic ports has jumped-ahead to 75% completion.

Meanwhile, the “Vias del Nus” highway project linking Medellin northward to the “Ruta del Sol” connection to Cartagena and Santa Marta is now 70% complete, according to ANI.

The “Mar 1” project includes construction of the second tube of Medellin's existing “Tunel al Occidente” tunnel (4.6 kilometers, due for completion by end-2022), as well as a new bridge over the Cauca river (426 meters), eventually connecting “ Mar 1” to the “Mar 2” highway -- including the new “Túnel del Toyo” (aka “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri”) project, Colombia’s longest highway tunnel.

“Mar 1” has a total length of 181 kilometers, “connecting Medellín with the main commercial exchange centers such as the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Magdalena River,” according to ANI.

The COP$1.8 trillion (US$468 million) project includes 43 viaducts, including 18 completed, 23 in construction and two not-yet started.

“The Mar 1 and Mar 2 projects, together with the Pacific 1, 2, 3 toll roads, will facilitate foreign trade to and from the coffee region,” ANI vice president Carlos García said.

“Currently, the travel time in a truck from the coffee region to Urabá [Atlantic ports] is 21 hours, but with the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 12 hours,” García added.

Vías del Nus Update

Meanwhile, ANI reported October 9 that the COP$1.2 trillion (US$312 million) “Vías del Nus” highway project heading northward from Medellin is now 70% complete.

Another 40 kilometers of that highway has just opened, part of what eventually will stretch 156 kilometers, crossing the Magdalena River and joining with the “Ruta del Sol” highway to northern Caribbean ports.

The entire “Vías del Nus” project is now expected to be complete by first-half 2021, according to ANI. That highway will enable traffic speeds of 80 kilometers/hour and will slash travel times between Pradera (just north of Medellin) and Alto de Dolores (Antioquia).

A crucial section of “Vías del Nus” includes the COP$673 billion (US$175 million) twin-tube “La Quiebra” tunnels, eliminating an historic bottleneck that has snagged freight traffic between Medellin and northern Antioquia for more than 100 years. The “La Quiebra” tunnel project is now 76% complete, according to ANI.


Spain-based Air Europa announced October 19 that it will resume nonstop flights between Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordoba (MDE) international airport and Madrid (MAD), Spain.

“As of November, Air Europa resumes its flights to Bogotá, Medellín, Caracas and Havana and increases frequencies to Santo Domingo, Quito and Guayaquil,” according to the company.

By year-end 2020, Air Europa will have nonstop flights to 18 destinations in the Americas, according to the company.

Initially, nonstop flights to Medellin, Bogotá, Caracas and Havana will be once-a-week until passenger demand rises, enabling more flights, according to Air Europa. As a result, twice-a-week service is foreseen for Bogotá, Havana, Buenos Aires, Lima and Santa Cruz (Bolivia), according to the company.

Covid-19 Insurance Provisions

Via a new insurance policy through Allianz Partners, “the Air Europa customer will have medical and hospital expenses covered in the event of a possible Covid infection, as well as the cost that could arise from the extension of your hotel stay or, where appropriate, from the pertinent quarantine,” according to the company.

The new policy “includes medical transfer and repatriation, and the cancellation, in the case of not being able to fly due to contagion, up to the limit established in the policy," according to Air Europa.

In addition, Air Europa “allows a free date change on all reservations made,” according to the company.


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero on October 17 issued a startling analysis indicating that the Medellin metro area likely has already surpassed 1 million Covid-19 cases with 96% of those likely recovered.

According to the Mayor’s analysis (see: https://medellin.gov.co/irj/portal/medellin?NavigationTarget=navurl://96fe4145738006ecf074a9e8fc82bccc), “in some countries it has been shown that for every person infected [as indicated by a positive Covid-19 test] there are 10 more infected than never were tested. If so, [then] Medellín would already have around 800,000 infected and the Medellin metropolitan area more than 1 million, with most already cured.

“With the [Colombian] National Institute of Health, we will carry out a ‘seroprevalence’ study in Medellín to determine what percentage of the population has already been infected and did not realize it. This will help us refine our ability to manage the infection and the ICU [intensive care unit occupation] curve [see chart, above].

“Regarding the number of cases, we remain in a plateau state without geometric growth and with 96.3% of people who have already overcome the contagion. Self-care has meant that only 10% of cases are among people older than 70 years [the most vulnerable population]. With them we must take the greatest care.

“The ICU occupancy rate has grown driven not by Covid but by delayed surgeries and other diseases. Among Covid cases, we have 249 stable cases, 63 with other respiratory Infections and 358 others in ICU now because of delayed surgeries and other diseases, which is increasing.

The [Antioquia] government has the autonomy to restrict delayed surgeries by raising the hospital [ICU occupancy rate] alert level to ‘red.’ However, this would not require quarantine implications for the city or its metropolitan area due to the reasons that I will explain.

“Medellín has 1,000 ICU beds, not counting the ones we [could] have available from ‘InspiraMed’ [project], which would add more than 300. Of these 1,000, 220 will be activated whenever the Covid [ICU case rate] requires it. To support the current conjuncture of overdue surgeries we will activate 26 this week.

“Many ask, ‘why not activate all of the [spare ICU beds] immediately?’ The first reason is budgetary. Hospitals burdened with debt cannot activate an ICU bed to keep it empty [in stand-by status]. An ICU requires a group of professionals available 24/7.

“Therefore, the activation of the [ICU] beds has been agreed in a phased scheme with the hospital managers and health personnel to take care of the [hospital] finances, avoid the arrival of foreign doctors and guarantee care with the highest standards of quality.

“Medellín has managed to manage the contagion curve thanks to the use of technology, giving us time to manufacture ventilators and comply with the ‘ICU 1,000’ plan.

“The number of ICU patients due to Covid in our health system has remained stable [see chart above, gray line] and below what we expected for this date. This has made it unnecessary to activate new ICU beds that have costs for hospitals.

“However, it is essential to recognize that this is an unprecedented and unpredictable crisis. There are questions still to be resolved: Will new [Covid-19] strains come? Will there be a vaccine? The only way is to keep investigating,” according to the Mayor.


Medellin-based utilities giant EPM announced October 16 that it has now completed all 35 scheduled measures to slash foul odors from its recently inaugurated “Aguas Claras” sewage treatment plant in the northern Medellin suburb of Bello.

The only remaining measure (number 36) is to complete a neighborhood survey asking local people about the effectiveness of the technical measures undertaken to avoid foul odors from the plant, according to EPM.

EPM subsidiary Aguas Nacionales just presented its progress report on "Aguas Claras" to the Antioquia Departmental Environmental Council (CODEAM).

“CODEAM, which has met periodically since February of this year, is made up of representatives of the [neighboring] Bellanita community, councilors and representatives of the Community Action Boards of the [plant’s] area-of-influence, Secretary of the Environment of the Government of Antioquia, Bello’s Secretary of Environment, the Bello Health Secretariat, Medellín and Bello Comptrollers’ Offices, the Health and Social Protection Section of the Antioquia Government, the Metropolitan Area ofValle de Aburrá [AMVA] and EPM,” according to the company.

“According to the measurements of Aguas Nacionales and EPM, which are reported and monitored by AMVA within CODEAM, odors have been considerably reduced, as of the fulfillment of this optimization plan. It has been about eight months of work to overcome the odor conditions that were presented at the beginning of 2020.

“With the San Fernando sewage treatment plant (located in the southern Medellin suburb of Itagüí) and Aguas Claras (in Bello) now operating, EPM treats 84% of the wastewater coming from homes, businesses, industries and companies in the Aburrá Valley,” the company added.


U.S.-based multinational snack-foods giant PepsiCo announced October 14 a US$93 million investment in a production plant in Guarne, Antioquia, just east of Medellin.

Colombia President Ivan Duque hailed the announcement during a nationally televised address October 14, citing this latest example of economic reactivation initiatives here even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This investment will strengthen the company’s value chain in four pillars: innovation and infrastructure, agriculture, communities, and sustainability,” according to PepsiCo Colombia.

The Guarne plant project “began in August 2020, with local labor, and is expected to be completed in 2022,” according to the company.

“This will be the largest PepsiCo plant in the country, with different production lines that include brands such as ‘Natuchips,’ ‘DeTodito’ and ‘Doritos,’ and will have around 400 workers,” according to the company.

“The investment, which includes packaging automation technologies, will complement PepsiCo’s manufacturing system in Colombia and will allow it to continue to consolidate itself as one of the most important companies in the country, as it has been since its arrival in 1947.”

On a parallel front, “PepsiCo and its [charitable] Foundation will continue to develop initiatives along priority lines such as water [conservation], recycling, the empowerment of women and sustainable agriculture,” the company added.

“Currently there are 10 programs in 12 municipalities throughout the country, a number that is projected to increase after the investment. In addition, PepsiCo will continue to strengthen associations of small farmers and expand its areas of intervention in the Colombian countryside,” according to the company.

Water conservation, recycling and solar-electric power production are among the technologies to be employed at the new plant in Guarne, Antioquia, the company added.


A Bogota District Court – having been assigned a case involving witness-tampering allegations earlier brought before an investigative unit of Colombia’s Supreme Court (“Sala de Instruccion”) – this morning (October 10) ordered the release from house arrest of former Colombia President (and former Senator) Alvaro Uribe.

District Court Judge Clara Ximena Salcedo found that under Colombia’s Constitution, it’s illegal to detain anyone that hasn’t been charged with a crime.
It’s now up to Colombia’s Attorney General to decide whether and with what evidence former President Uribe should be charged and tried on allegations originating from left-wing Senator Ivan Cepeda claiming that Uribe and one of his lawyers were involved in a witness-tampering scheme.

Understanding the Background

Senator Cepeda – who has dedicated his entire career to a vendetta against President Uribe -- continues to claim that his late father Manuel Cepeda was actually a victim of a plot by the Colombian government -- and by inference, supposedly Uribe can be seen tangentially for blame.

Manuel Cepeda -- a member of the Central Committee of the Colombian Communist Party -- was murdered in 1994 by former “AUC” paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño in an act of revenge for an earlier murder of an AUC member by the narco-communist FARC army. The FARC at the time was in political alliance with the Colombian Communist Party -- and the current FARC members in Congress (all former FARC guerrilla leaders) are very friendly with Cepeda's son, Ivan.

In Ivan Cepeda’s way of thinking, former President Alvaro Uribe can be seen as the ultimate source of the rise of Colombian paramilitaries -- including those involved in his father’s murder -- even though Uribe didn’t become Colombian President until eight years after his father's murder, and Ivan Cepeda has never accused Uribe of actual involvement in the murder.

Ironically, it  was former President Cesar Gaviria – not former President Uribe – who legally founded the “Convivir” rural paramilitary movement (later succeeded by the AUC). “Convivir” at first was dedicated exclusively to fighting the FARC terrorists but eventually – mainly due to a lack of government funding -- degenerated into yet another narco-terrorist group, fighting against its rival FARC.

In Colombia’s never-ending political cannibalism, Uribe had earlier publicly charged that Senator Cepeda illegally tried to get jailed paramilitary criminals – including several jailed and/or extradited to the U.S. by Uribe – to take revenge against Uribe with trumped-up charges of involvement in alleged paramilitary murders of supposedly innocent civilians decades ago.

When a Colombian court dismissed Uribe’s allegations of Cepeda’s witness tampering, the court instead took-up Cepeda’s counter-charges, claiming Uribe and one of his lawyers illegally tampered with those same criminal witnesses.

To better understand the reasons behind Senator Cepeda’s vendetta against Uribe – a vendetta not coincidentally shared by Uribe rival, former President Manuel Santos and several of President Santos’ financially corrupted appointees to Colombia’s Supreme Court – it’s useful to examine a January 13, 2015 investigative report by astute Colombian political blog, Trinchera Politica.

We reproduce below (in full) an English translation of the Trinchera Politica report here:

Iván Cepeda: Revenge of the Heir to the 42nd Front of the FARC
Author: Trinchera Politica (blog)
13 January 2015

Manuel Cepeda Vargas [Senator Ivan Cepeda’s father] was a leftist ideologue, perhaps the one who best applied the concept of the [late Soviet Union Communist dictator Vladimir Lenin’s] ‘combination of all forms of struggle’ to achieve power.

Not in vain, [Manuel Cepeda’s] comrade Álvaro Delgado describes in his book, All Past Times Were Worse: “Like an unscrupulous man who fell in love with the [FARC] monster that he created together with the Communist Party, Manuel Cepeda Vargas helped the FARC to cleanse the Communist Party of all those [idealistic militants] who got tired of the massacres and violence that the FARC carried out.”

For his part, Steven Dudley, in his book Armas y Urnas [Weapons and Ballot-Boxes] with a single sentence shows how monstrous Cepeda Vargas became: “Manuel Cepeda was an 'orthodox' communist who first marginalized the democratic socialists (...) who defended the ‘combination of all forms of struggle.’ Using both legal and illegal means to take power was Manuel’s creed and, as a member of the Communist Party, he had among his responsibilities to maintain contact with the FARC (…) [but] his indiscretions cost him his life.”

Thanks to their tenacity in defending the armed struggle regardless of the methods, the FARC christened their most bloodthirsty Front with the name, ‘Manuel Cepeda Vargas.’

It is not in vain that the FARC Front that bears his name did not mind destroying an entire town in order to assassinate a few soldiers. You just have to see how Manuel Cepeda’s friend Álvaro Delgado, a fellow member of the Communist Party, describes [Manuel Cepeda], and how he is shown in the book, Weapons and Ballot-Boxes, in which they unmask a man who [possibly unwittingly] helped annihilate his own political party [including the Union Patriotica (UP) coalition] to justify the armed struggle. For a sinister character like this, the popular adage that says ‘the end justifies the means’ fits very well.

The FARC learned very well from their teacher and as the book Armas y Urnas shows, the FARC, by order of Jacobo Arenas, undertook [murders] against the [Communist-Party-led coalition] Union Patriotico (UP) in order to justify their armed struggle by murdering hundreds of them. It is for this reason that it is unconvincing that both the Union Patriotico and Manuel Cepeda supposedly died at the hands of [Colombian government] state organizations, because in principle it was the same FARC who persecuted those who demobilized, as they do today by assassinating deserters through their courts-martial.

Manuel Cepeda was assassinated in Bogotá on August 9, 1994, and the Colombian state, in the absence of a legal defense policy, was condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for his murder and [the government] was ordered to write a [sanitized] biography about his life, showing him as an integral man, to cleanse the memory of a being that really, if his life was as his comrades in the struggle paint it, did a lot of damage to our country and rivers of blood that have flowed in his name.

However, this chapter would not end here, as [former AUC leader] Carlos Castaño Gil himself admitted in his book, My Confession, on page 213. Castaño confesses to having directed and ordered the AUC Command to end the life of the then-Senator Manuel Cepeda, in retaliation for a murder [against an AUC member] ordered by the FARC. For Castaño Gil, the death of Manuel Cepeda [supposedly] would be a blow that would hurt the FARC.

But the Colombian Supreme Court declared the evidence [of Carlos Castaño’s confession] was illegal, as it was not provided in due time for the [trial] process, thus leaving the belief that state agents were the ones who murdered [Manuel Cepeda]. But Carlos Castaño's testimony is corroborated by his brother-in-law Jesús Emiro Pereira, a confidant of the head of the AUC, who assured that he himself accompanied the command that would take Cepeda’s life.

Iván Cepeda Castro’s Emergence

In turn, Manuel Cepeda’s son -- now Senator Iván Cepeda Castro, who has always been a member of left-wing parties and who even lived in Communist Cuba during his childhood, was later elected Senator for the Polo Democratico party.

Senator Ivan Cepeda has waged his most stubborn struggle to try to prove that his father was not killed by Carlos Castaño, but rather by the Colombian state and thus clear the name of his late father. Even though Carlos Castaño confessed to having ended the life of the late UP Senator [that is, Manuel Cepeda], Senator Ivan Cepeda Castro has tried by all possible means to have the death of his father be recognized as a crime of the state.

Now Senator Iván Cepeda Castro -- as founder of the “Manuel Cepeda Vargas Foundation” and from his jurisdiction as defender of the human rights of state victims -- has proposed to tell the story of the [Colombian guerrilla] conflict through organizations such as Memoria Historica, which is presided over by the confessed former ELN guerrilla member Leon Valencia.

If Iván Cepeda has tried to distort the story of his father’s death, then how can we expect the story of the conflict to be told? Perhaps in the same way in which he tries to hide that the death of his father was executed by Carlos Castaño.

Iván Cepeda is also a recognized detractor of the Colombian military forces. We must remember episodes and verbal confrontations such as the one he had with retired General Jaime Ruiz who made mention of the son of a late guerrilla leader who always opposed military-court jurisdiction [over alleged crimes by members of the military].

It is reality that Senator Ivan Cepeda at the beginning of 2013 demanded the end of military jurisdiction [courts] and finally the Constitutional Court declared them unenforceable.

It is really a shame that Colombia is one of the few countries in which the military is judged by the ordinary [civilian] justice system, which knows nothing about issues, procedures and actions within an armed conflict.

But at the same time that Cepeda asks the military to pay [in civil court] for their blunders in the conflict, he asks forgiveness for the FARC for their forced disappearances, laying anti-personnel mines, recruiting boys and girls for war where they were raped and many girls later forced to abort, for attacks on the civilian population, for kidnapping and extorting. Instead, they [FARC terrorists] are sentenced to seats in Congress [under Colombia’s “peace agreement”].

Now let’s talk about Ivan Cepeda's ties with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, which had the Colombian state convicted for Manuel Cepeda’s death, and which defends the interests of Iván Cepeda in his prosecution processes.

Iván Cepeda has a great friendship with Alirio Uribe -- former president of the Lawyer’s Collective, and also an ex-M-19 combatant who on September 30, 1985, together with 30 other bandits, hijacked a truck [and] thanks to the reaction of the authorities, 28 were shot, but before dying they blew up the truck, killing several civilians, while two terrorists survived, including Alirio Uribe.

Now in our time Alirio Uribe poses as a dignified and intellectual man who together with Iván Cepda wrote a book defaming former president Alvaro Uribe, called Along the Paths of Uberrimo.

This group is recognized for welcoming and defending only victims of the state and the paramilitaries. But episodes such as the Mapiripán case sound in our memories, where that Collective condemned the Colombian state for said massacre at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

But later, it was possible to prove that of the 20 direct “victims” that this group represented, 12 weren’t in fact victims. Two were actually killed by the FARC prior to the massacre, three others were active members of the FARC, two others survived and one had died of natural death, while another -- a FARC guerrilla named Rusbel Asdrubal -- later demobilized.

In this episode, we Colombians had to pay a sum close to COP$3 billion [US$750,000] for each false victim.

Now Iván Cepeda has lined up batteries against the Centro Democratico party chaired by former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, whom Cepeda wastes no opportunity to persecute and defame.

Iván Cepeda, despite having said that his problem is with the head of the ‘extreme right’ (Uribe), says that he has no personal problem with Uribe, and the most paradoxical thing is that most of the complaints against Senator Uribe today have been promoted by Cepeda, whom Uribe himself has accused of meeting with paramilitaries in prisons to buy testimonies against him, and according to a statement made to the prosecution, at least two paramilitaries would accuse Iván Cepeda of trying to buy testimony against the former president.

Cepeda has repeatedly accused Uribe of having links with the paramilitaries and even of being the promoter of the Convivir, not mentioning the fact that this self-defense group -- created by Carlos Castaño Gil in the 1980s -- was created as a legal figure through Decree 356 of 1994 in the government of then-President Cesar Gaviria, not by President Uribe.

Cepeda fails to mention that the it was President Uribe who demobilized, imprisoned and extradited paramilitaries. Yet Cepeda accuses Uribe of being a paramilitary. And Iván Cepeda himself has met with [Uribe-extradited] paramilitaries in North American prisons, yet accuses Uribe of witness tampering.

Cepeda also hides the main reason for the extraditions, and that is that the Uribe government, through the Justice and Peace Law, conditioned the permanence of those paramilitaries [in local Colombian prisons rather than in U.S. prisons] on the promise of them to stop committing crimes.

But as they continued [to organize] criminal activities from prison, Uribe had them extradited [to U.S. prisons]. Hence many former paramilitary chiefs want to take revenge on Uribe and so far there are many paramilitaries who have been excluded from the Justice and Peace [amnesty] law, so they have declared against Uribe.

This is a juicy breeding ground for characters who hate Uribe to obtain false testimonies, complemented by all the propaganda and disinformation with which they have made against the head of Centro Democratico.

[During a Colombian Congress floor debate], Ivan Cepeda proposed a debate supposedly against paramilitarism. But from the beginning he showed that his objective was to stand against the honor and person of Senator Uribe.

As it is unconstitutional for one Senator to hold a debate against another, he camouflaged said debate by arguing that it was against paramilitarism. But during the debate [Cepeda] only focused on the public, private and family life of Senator Uribe, introducing demagoguery and lies that former President Uribe easily managed to dismiss.

In the debate promoted by Cepeda, allegedly against paramilitarism, we did not hear the name of Carlos Castaño, creator of the AUC Forces, nor the historical background or the reasons that led this character to create said organization, nor the impact that the FARC had on the creation of this monster by assassinating, kidnapping and extorting peasants and businessmen. The debate was only about Álvaro Uribe Velez from beginning to end.

Now, there is a question that always assails Colombians and it is this: why does Iván Cepeda hate Uribe so much?

We see that this hatred is such that Cepeda is able to meet paramilitaries in prisons and seek testimonies against Uribe, as certified by INPEC [Colombia’s prison authority].

We see how every day he seeks a way to attack the former President, for example with an unconstitutional debate in which he intends to act as a judge and ‘show’ Uribe’s links with paramilitarism -- links that he has not been able to demonstrate before the courts.

Why Cepeda distills so much hatred against now-former Senator Uribe [is ironic] because while Cepeda speaks of forgiveness and forgetfulness for the FARC, he refuses to forget the reasons for his personal hatred.

We Colombians do not understand the reasons for so much resentment, especially since during Uribe’s [presidency] the [left-wing] opposition was able to exercise politics freely. Indeed, it was one of the periods in which many leaders of the Left were able to return to the country from exile to engage in politics -- [thanks to President Uribe’s successful actions to prevent] deaths of leftist leaders, trade unionists and journalists.

Of course, there was also a comprehensive defense by the state against the armed Left of this country, who were attacked militarily, politically, economically, propagandistically and above all, against drug trafficking, a fundamental pillar of the economy and financing of the armed Marxist groups.

All these achievements in security [during President Uribe’s two terms] are obvious and the radical and armed Left of this country was deeply wounded to [near] death, so much so that there were massive demobilizations, which implied a disastrous loss -- even worse than the [military] casualties suffered by these Left armed groups.

A combatant who demobilizes did that because he [or she] managed to change thinking, disappointed in those [totalitarian Marxist] ideas. But a combatant who dies in the field of combat was someone who died faithful to ideals.

The great demobilizations of guerrillas [during the Uribe presidency era] shows the ideological crisis that the Uribe government caused within the armed Left. It is obvious that this affected and damaged the political Left as well.

Perhaps Senator Cepeda’s hatred against Uribe can be explained when on February 4, 2008, more than 11 million Colombians marched in repudiation of the FARC [the immense, global ‘No Mas FARC’ marches, by far the biggest in all Colombian history].

And just a month later, Iván Cepeda called a counter-march against the paramilitaries who were already in the process of demobilization at that time. Cepeda was seeking to overshadow the political defeat led by the Colombian people against Marxism.

But the curious thing about the matter is that the FARC on its ‘Anncol’ web-page promoted this march by Cepeda -- though it is said that in several [terrorized, FARC-sieged] municipalities, the FARC forced citizens to go out.

Perhaps this could shed much light about why Iván Cepeda strongly condemns any threat made by alleged paramilitaries, but overstates any act committed outside the law by a member of the public forces -- and is silent in the face of the murders that the FARC committed daily.

It would be good to ask Senator Cepeda if the victims of the FARC do not have human rights – or if they deserve the same human rights of whoever he is defending.


Colombia’s national immigration authority (Migracion Colombia) announced late last night (October 5) that it has detected more than 70 international passengers infected with Covid-19 illegally arriving in Colombia since October 1.

“From October 1 to date, more than 70 foreign citizens have been inadmissible [to Colombia] for not complying with the legal requirements to enter the country,” according to Migracion Colombia.

Among the latest cases include a Covid-19 infected woman and her baby arriving October 4 on a flight from Cancun, Mexico, according to Migracion Colombia.

“Since the PCR [Covid-19 detection] test began to be required to enter the country on October 1, more than 9,000 national and foreign citizens have entered our national territory, and more than 70 foreigners have been inadmissible for failure to comply with the requirements to enter the national territory,” according to the agency.

“Airlines that have transported five positive cases for Covid-19 [are now facing] an administrative investigation, which could lead to a penalty of up to COP$12 million [US$3,130] for each one of the [illegal, infected] travelers,” according to the agency.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s civil aviation authority (Aerocivil) simultaneously announced October 5 that both Avianca and Wingo are now under investigation for illegally boarding several Covid-19-infected passengers on two different flights.

Avianca faces charges for illegal boarding of passengers on a recent Medellin-Bogota flight , while Wingo faces charges for illegal boarding on a Cancun-Bogota flight, according to Aerocivil.

New York Quarantine Restrictions

On a related front, Avianca announced October 5 that all Colombia passengers bound for New York now must pass new Covid-19 quarantine controls.

The announcement follows a New York Governor executive order restricting passengers from Covid-19 "high-risk" countries, including Colombia and El Salvador, Avianca noted.

"We recommend that passengers that can't comply with the quarantine [requirements] abstain from traveling," according to Avianca.

All New York-bound passengers from Colombia must now fill-out a New York Health Department form, available here: https://forms.ny.gov/s3/Welcome-to-New-York-State-Traveler-Health-Form.

“If you are entering New York state and have traveled from within one of the designated states or countries [including Colombia, then], you must quarantine for 14 days from the last day you were in a designated state or country,” according to the New York Health Department.

“Upon entering New York, if you are a traveler and do not have a suitable dwelling for your 14-day quarantine period, [then] you must find appropriate accommodations at your own cost.

“If you are a New York state resident returning from travel and do not have appropriate accommodations for quarantine, [then] please call your local health department: www.health.ny.gov/contact/contact_information/. For guidance on how to quarantine safely, visit: https://ny.gov/traveladvisory,” according to the agency.

 


Aeromexico announced the arrival today (October 2) of its very first nonstop flight between Mexico City and Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordoba (JMC) international airport, having previously suspended service for the last seven months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the company, Aeromexico will offer three-times-a-week nonstop service between JMC (MDE) and Mexico city, starting immediately.

Meanwhile, JetBlue announced the restart of three times-per-week nonstop service between MDE and Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL) starting October 4. JetBlue likewise suspended international service since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then, on October 7, Copa restarts flights between MDE and Panama City, Panama (PTY), with daily service beginning October 21.

American Airlines, Avianca, Spirit and VivaAir likewise have restarted international flights to and from MDE and U.S. cities.

Still unknown is when Air Europa and Iberia would resume international flights to-and-from MDE and Madrid (Spain), or whether Interjet will resume its prior service between MDE and Mexico City.


Colombia’s national government on September 30 officially signed papers handing-over half of the former “Electricaribe” power operation in five Caribbean coastal departments to Medellin-based EPM effective October 1.

The deal for what was once dubbed “CaribeMar” means that as of today (October 1), the new “Afinia” unit of EPM is now responsible for investing at least COP$8 trillion (US$2 billion) in required infrastructure upgrades over the next 10 years -- and simultaneously trying to find a way to get hundreds of thousands of habitual non-paying customers in that region to start paying their electric bills.

EPM’s new “Afinia” division (a.k.a. “CaribeMar”) now assumes power-service obligations in all of Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba and Sucre departments, plus 13 municipalities in Magdalena. As a result, EPM’s national share of the Colombian power market rises to 35% -- biggest in the nation.

Under the deal, EPM initially must invest COP$4 trillion (US$1 billion) in the first five years of "Afinia" operations, then double that investment in the subsequent five years, to a cumulative COP$8 trillion (US$2 billion) over 10 years, according to the company.

Beyond this initial US$2 billion investment risk is the challenge of finding ways to overcome the massive losses suffered by all prior Electricaribe operations -- because of a widespread culture of customer non-payment.

According to Colombia’s Public Services Superintendant Natasha Avendaño, fully 32% of Electricaribe customers never pay their electric power bills. Illegal power connections in many Caribbean municipalities are so massive that the former Electricaribe company inevitably fell into bankruptcy.

To convince EPM to buy the “CaribeMar” (now Afinia) operation despite the disastrous history of Electricaribe, the Colombian government agreed to assume some huge costs:

1. COP$2 trillion (US$519 million) of pension liabilities covering more than 3,000 current Electricaribe pensioners.
2. COP$4.56 trillion (US$1.18 billion) in operating-cost credits and power purchase guarantees.
3. COP$860 billion (US$223 million) in required infrastructure investments.

Since the government took-over essentially bankrupt Electricaribe in 2016, “priority interventions were carried out to improve the infrastructure of power networks, substations, new circuits, distribution transformers, as well as the implementation of a loss-reduction plan,” according to Colombia’s Ministry of Mines & Energy.

“As a result, the service interruption duration indicator (SAIDI) has been cut from 75.11 hours in 2019 to 56.34 hours in August 2020. Likewise, the service interruption frequency indicator (SAIFI) was reduced from 77.15 times in August 2019 to 67.33 times in the same month of 2020,” according to the Ministry.


Antioquia’s departmental government officially announced September 24 that the national government will finalize on November 11 a COP$1.4 trillion (US$365 million) financing package for the crucial “Tramo 2” (phase-two section) of new highway linked to the under-construction Toyo Tunnel westward from Medellin.

The Toyo Tunnel – also known as “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri” – when completed in 2023 will become Colombia’s longest highway tunnel, part of the “Mar 2” highway project linking Medellin to current and future Atlantic freight ports.

The Toyo Tunnel project – now about one-third excavated – is funded by the city of Medellin (COP$530 billion/US$138 million) and the Antioquia departmental government (COP$795 billion/US$208 million).

But that tunnel would have been orphaned from the entire Mar 2 highway project unless the national government had followed-through on its promise to fund the “Tramo 2” highway section between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the Toyo Tunnel entrance.

“We had the great announcement of the contribution that the national government will ensure COP$1.4 trillion for the phase-two portion of this project,” said Lina Vélez de Nicholls, executive director of the Medellín Chamber of Commerce for Antioquia. “This is a great effort because the competitiveness of our region depends on this work as well as the [connecting] Mar 1 and Mar 2 highways to the [Caribbean] sea.”

Juan Pablo López Cortés, Antioquia’s Secretary of Physical Infrastructurea, added that “this [financing] commitment of the nation ratifies the joint effort made for our region and is very positive, both for the project and for the productivity and competitiveness of Antioquia. Having [financing commitments] will allow us to start contracting for the construction of phase-two of the Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri Tunnel” project.

The 19.4-kilometers-long Phase Two section will include 11 new tunnels, 13 new bridges and an additional 12.5 kilometers of regular highway.


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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.

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