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Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced July 18 that its 2.4-gigawatt (GW) “Hidroituango” hydroelectric power project in Antioquia has reached a crucial milestone: Completion of the 434.6-meters-high (above sea-level) dam.

Still remaining: installation of turbines and power-control works in the mechanical room, damaged last year by diverting Cauca River water through that room because of collapse of an adjacent, temporary diversion tunnel.

The Hidroituango project – now roughly estimated to cost about US$5 billion, mainly because of a three-year-delay in power output resulting from the collapse of the diversion tunnel – is scheduled to start 600 megawatts (MW) power production in late 2021, with full production gradually increasing in 2022 and 2023 until full capacity is reached in 2024.

Hidroituango ultimately will generate about 17% of the entire Colombian power output, along with untold billions of dollars of zero-emissions, “green” power revenues and profits for EPM (and its sole shareholder, the city of Medellin) in coming decades.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Controller-General announced July 15 that the three-year delay at Hidroituango – pushing-back the originally scheduled December 2018 partial start-up – probably will cost EPM around COP$4 trillion (US$1.25 billion). However, EPM announced that it’s still studying the Controller’s report and hence wouldn’t provide further comment.

Bond Deal

On another front, EPM announced July 11 that it successfully launched a US$1.38 billion bond offering in the international market, further boosting investor confidence in the company despite the Hidroituango setback.

Investors from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America eagerly responded to the deal, at three times the total offered.

The deal enabled EPM early payback of US$1.03 billion in existing, higher-cost debt and early buyback of another US$1.1 billion in another debt offering, according to the company.

Solar-Power Offering Expands

On yet another front, EPM announced July 10 that it’s expanding its existing solar-power business beyond large-scale commercial and industrial customers to homeowners and small businesses.

The new deal includes financing, installation of solar panels, a required power inverter, the required meter, maintenance, and provision of the required legal paperwork enabling customers to become net generators of power back into the local and national grid.


Colombia’s national statistics agency (DANE) on July 12, 2019 revealed that the 2018 national census found Medellin’s resident population hit 2.37 million, up 7.6% from the last census in 2005.

Meanwhile, the adjacent suburbs in Valle de Aburra grew by 12% over the same period, with the result that Medellin plus its neighboring suburbs now have a total resident population of 3.72 million, according to DANE.

The census data also indicate that during 2018, another 355,000 Venezuelans emigrated to Colombia, with Bogota absorbing the biggest portion, followed by Medellin.

In the last three years, more than 2 million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia thanks to disastrous socialist policies that have wrecked the Venezuelan economy and plunged millions into absolute poverty.

Second on the numerical list of emigrants to Colombia last year was USA (4,863 emigrants), followed by (in order) Ecuador, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Panama, Brazil and Peru.

The DANE statistical report also found that Antioquia department (of which Medellin is the capital) census survey indicated the highest relative quality-of-life ranking, whereas Bogota came in at fifth place.

The ranking incorporated factors such as relative satisfaction with security, work, income and health, according to DANE.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced July 12, 2019 that the COP$110 billion (US$34 million) expansion of the cargo terminal at Medellin’s José María Córdova (JMC) international airport is nearly complete.

“The project awarded by ANI to the operator of Aeropuertos Centro Norte (Airplan) seeks via this extension to improve the logistics process of imports and exports, and reduce costs and transport times in this area of the country,” according to the agency .

The expansion works in the cargo terminal include adaptation of an administrative center, a cargo and warehousing service module, the extension of more than 33,000 square meters of taxiways and berms, the expansion of the platform that will expand from the current 14,000 square meters to more than 27,000 square meters and the construction of about 16,000 square meters of parking, according to ANI.

“Currently, this terminal serves the cargo transported by specialized airlines such as Avianca Cargo, Centurion Cargo, UPS, Aerosucre, Cargo Cup, Cargolux, Latam Cargo, Air Canada Cargo, Fedex and DHL as well as commercial passenger flights,” according to ANI.

“Among exportable products by air, flowers are considered the main transit through this terminal to destinations such as the United States, with the highest percentage of shipments, as well as to Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia.

“Among the new works was the adaptation of 3000 square meters of cold rooms that will allow a better management of [flower exports] and other loads, especially agricultural goods. It is estimated that, on average, flower shipments take between 11 and 16 hours from the initial harvesting to loading on the planes,” according to the agency.

Single Inspection Zone

Meanwhile, the new terminal also features one of the first single-cargo-inspection zones in all Colombia. This new area “seeks to implement new inspection procedures to streamline routine exercises carried out by entities such as the National Tax and Customs Directorate of Colombia (DIAN), the Anti-Narcotics police, the Invima (Colombia’s sanitary inspection regulatory agency) and the ICA (Colombia’s national agricultural research agency), according to ANI.

Passenger Traffic Jumps

On a related front, Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (GAdS) announced  July 3 that domestic passenger traffic through JMC airport from January through June 2019 is already up 19% year-on-year, totalling 4.7 million passengers. Meanwhile, international passenger traffic through JMC from January-June 2019 likewise is up 13% year-on-year, to 857,136 passengers.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced February 27, 2019 that the existing, congested two-lane highways connecting Rionegro, Llanogrande and Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport will expand to four lanes.

The COP$118 billion (US$38 million) project will tap funds generated by the existing toll booths of the various “Devimed” highways east of Medellin, according to ANI.

“The [highway expansion] works will begin after the delivery of [adjacent] properties by the Civil Aeronautics Authority [Aerocivil], the government of Antioquia and the municipality of Rionegro,” according to ANI.

In total, 12.6 kilometers of existing two-lane highways will expand to four lanes, linking the city of Rionegro to Llanogrande and then onward to the existing roundabout adjacent to JMC airport.

The rapidly growing “oriente” region east of Medellin is about to experience even more traffic congestion when the “Tunel de Oriente” tunnel linking Medellin to JMC airport opens as expected in May or June 2019.

“The next step for the start of the work will be the delivery of the [adjacent] properties by the government of Antioquia and the Aerocivil for the construction of the 6.4-kilometer stretch between Llanogrande and the roundabout to the Airport, while the municipality of Rionegro must deliver [properties adjacent to] the corresponding to 6.2 kilometers between Rionegro and Llanogrande,” according to ANI.

The “Devimed” highways east of Medellin include the four-lane, divided highway between Acevedo (north Medellin, near Bello) and Santuario -- all part of the existing Medellin-Bogota highway.

Other “Devimed” toll highways east of Medellin include the existing two-lane roads connecting El Retiro, La Ceja, La Union, Carmen de Viboral, Marinilla and Santuario.


Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez announced June 13, 2019 that the city’s enormously popular “Metro” public-transport network will add yet another zero-emissions aerial-tram “Metrocable” system -- helping to stem air pollution mainly caused by obsolete diesel and gasoline vehicles.

The 2.8-kilometers-long, COP$298 billion (US$99 million) “El Picacho” aerial tram is due to start-up in late 2019, he estimated.

Local residents had to abandon nearly 400 homes to make way for construction of the new route.

The “Picacho” line would serve about 160,000 people living in the working-class Northwest neighborhoods of Castilla and Doce de Octubre.

That line will join Metro’s existing electric-powered Metro rail system, an expanding electric-powered “Tranvia” road-tram network, the “Encycla” bicycle system, and the low-emissions, natural-gas-fueled “Metroplus” bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, which are gradually being replaced by 100% pure electric buses.

Medellin gets virtually all its electric power from zero-emissions hydroelectric dams, with Medellin-based power utility EPM expanding capacity with the 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydropower plant partially starting-up in late 2021.

Exito, EPM Team-up on EV Recharging

Meanwhile, Medellin-based multinational supermarket giant Exito has gradually expanded a network of public electric vehicle (EV) recharging stations in Medellin – initially at the Éxito Poblado supermarket and at the “Viva” mall in the Laureles neighborhood.

While only a handful of EVs exist in Medellin to-date, local car manufacturer Renault (and its joint-venture partner Nissan) is one of the world’s leading makers of mass-market EVs -- mainly in Europe, so far. Renault initially launched sales of its “Twizy” mini-EV here and then in 2018 debuted the "Zoe" EV four-passenger sedan. BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and BYD also are marketing pure EVs here.

 


New rules adopted by the Colombian government allow long-time foreign nationals with existing, valid permanent residency status in Colombia to avoid the once-every-five-years trip to Bogota to renew the visa that’s already stamped inside your non-Colombian, foreign passport.

However, already-permanent, long-time legal residents here (editor's note: I've been living here continuously for 14 years) still need to renew their “cedula de extranjeria” every five years, according to Migracion Colombia, the official Colombian government migratory agency.

Even despite elimination of the former requirement to renew your visa every five years, you still might find it useful to have that existing Colombia visa stamp transferred at Migracion Colombia offices in Bogota from your expired, non-Colombian passport to your new, non-Colombian passport. Several agencies here in Medellin can do that for you, enabling you to avoid that personal trip to Migracion Colombia in Bogota.

On the other hand, personal reports from some expats here indicate that the old Colombia visa stamp  in your old passport (example: the old, expired USA passport that now has two holes drilled through it) has sometimes been accepted by Colombian immigration authorities whenever re-entering Colombia from a foreign trip. But to eliminate any doubts or worries, you might as well have your existing Colombian visa stamp transferred to your new, non-Colombian passport, whenever you have to renew that foreign passport.

As for your “cedula de extranjeria,” this document can be renewed at the Migracion Colombia agency office (formerly "DAS") in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin, every five years.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s foreign ministry announced that other changes to visa regulations took effect in November 2017.

In that announcement (see complete text in Spanish here: http://legal.legis.com.co/document?obra=legcol&document=legcol_74fa455ce7e44df19296af36ef78d8e8), the Ministry clarified that it’s regrouping many different types of current visas into three main categories: visitor (V), migrant (M) and resident (R).

Many of the changes are superficial (changes of words or categories, but not meaning), but some clarifications are worth noting.

For example: “Visitors” for tourism, for investigating business opportunities, for contract negotiations and for sales representations are allowed stays of up-to-180 days, but such visitors cannot do local contract work.

However, “visitors” attending trade shows, sporting events, artistic events, doing film productions, executing journalism assignments, occupying temporary corporate assignments (for a non-Colombia-headquartered company) and performing certain volunteer projects are allowed to “work” at those assignments or events, according to the Ministry.

“Migrants” (those intending to become residents) who are married to a Colombian national -- or parents of a Colombian-born adopted child -- likewise can “work” in Colombia for up-to-three-years, and also can apply to become a “resident” after two years.

In addition, “migrants” that obtain a local work contract or become a partner in a commercial enterprise here can obtain a “resident” visa after five years.

For real-estate investors, “migrant” visas can be obtained by investing at least 350 minimum Colombian monthly salaries. The current Colombian minimum monthly salary -- COP$738,000 – multiplied by 350 equals COP$258 million, or about US$88,000 at current COP/USD exchange rates and current Colombian legal salary minimums.

To obtain the visa, the real-estate investment must be accompanied by proof of free title (“certificado de libertad y tradicion del inmueble adquirido que pruebe titularidad”) as well as proof of registry of the foreign funds used for the purchase (“communicacion expedida por el Departamento de Cambios Internacionales del Banco de la Republica”).

For those seeking a “migrant” visa as a retiree, the applicant must show that a pension (such as Social Security or a private-sector pension) is at least three times the Colombian minimum monthly salary (COP$2,214,000 or about US$753). Alternatively, an applicant could get a “migrant” visa if receiving at least 10 times the minimum monthly salary (COP$7,380,000) if this income is from investments with regular payouts (such as annuities).

For “empresarios” seeking a “migrant” visa, the applicant must show a capital investment of at least 100 minimum monthly salaries (COP$73.8 million or about US$25,000). For “independent” professionals, a “migrant” visa can be obtained with bank records indicating earnings of at least 10 minimum monthly salaries over the prior six months.

Real-estate investors, commercial partners, contracted workers and pensioners with “migrant” visas can apply for “resident” visas after five years.

In addition, registered foreign direct investors (FDIs) investing at least 650 minimum monthly salaries (COP$480 million, or about US$163,000) can apply for a “resident” visa.

Foreigners married to Colombian nationals also will continue to qualify for “resident” visas, as in prior visa regulations. “Resident” visas are good for five years and are renewable.

First-time (and some renewal) visa applications are now processed on-line through the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores web-site (see: http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites_servicios/visas).

Most expats in Colombia make a personal trip to Ministry offices in Bogota to obtain their visa, although some specialist agencies and lawyers here in Medellin offer to handle that process for you.


The “Corvipacifico” construction consortium and highway authorities announced May 29, 2019 that a huge landslide near Sinifaná wrecked a 300-meters-long section of the under-construction “Pacifico 1” highway as well a nearby, 300-meters-long section of the existing highway between the southern Medellin suburb of Caldas and the town of Bolombolo alongside the Cauca River.

Officials estimate that the resulting road closures will take many more months to fix, forcing traffic to take longer, alternative routes likely through much of 2020.

The bad news overshadows earlier news from September 2018 that construction works had restarted on the long-delayed “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin and Bolombolo.

That highway will connect via a new bridge across the Cauca River with the under-construction “Pacifico 2” highway linking Bolombolo to Primavera and then to “Pacifico 3” highway all the way to the main Pacific freight port of Buenaventura.

To facilitate construction on “Pacifico 1,” Corvipacifico had been closing the existing highway between Puerto Escondido and Bolombolo from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

According to Corfipacifico, construction also had begun on the two big tunnels for Pacifico 1 project, at Amagá (3.6- kilometers length) and Sinifaná (1.3-kilometers).

“These two tunnels that will cross the imposing and rugged geography of Antioquia will be added to the new generation of tunnels throughout Colombia,” according to the group.

The Sinifaná tunnel is three kilometers from the town center of Bolombolo, and the Amagá tunnel is located in the municipality of Amagá, a long-time center of artisanal coal extraction.

“The tunnels respectively will be equipped with all the technological equipment for their operation and control with the best safety specifications [including] a ventilation system, lighting, communications, variable signaling and fire protection,” according to the group.

“Following the excavation activities that began recently, we foresee completion in September 2019 in the case of the Sinifaná tunnel, and in September 2021 we foresee completion of the Amagá tunnel,” according to the group.

The COP$3.58 trillion (US$1.2 billion) “Pacifico 1” project reached financial close two years ago, but construction work has been extremely slow.

“Pacifico 1” will total 50.2 kilometers in length, including the two tunnels, 54 new bridges and three new intersections.


AeroMexico and Interjet – both based in Mexico City – simultaneously announced May 9, 2019 the expansion of nonstop flights between Medellin and Mexico, with onward connections.

AeroMexico has been offering twice-weekly nonstop service to/from Medellin and Cancun since last November 17 -- and just decided to continue those flights beyond its earlier, original plan to end that seasonal service in April.

Meanwhile, Interjet announced the launch of daily flights to/from Medellin and Mexico City and Cancun as of June 5.

The new Medellin service “will operate using Airbus A320 aircraft seating 150 passengers,” according to Interjet.

“Round trip-promotional fares between the U.S., Canada and Medellin, will start as low as US$350, taxes included. These special fares with be available for purchase until June 30, 2019 and valid for travel from June 5, 2019 through November 30, 2019,” according to Interjet.

“South America is a growing and significant market for both business and leisure travel,” added Interjet chief commercial officer Julio Gamero.

“With our expanded service, passengers to and from these destinations can now have convenient connections in Mexico City to New York City, Chicago and Dallas/Ft. Worth in the U.S., along with easy connections to Toronto and Montreal in Canada,” Gamero said.


Canada-based medical-marijuana developer PharmaCielo – whose research and operating-group headquarters are in Rionegro, Antioquia – announced April 18, 2019 a full-year 2018 net loss of US$24.4 million, worse than the US$7.6 million net loss in 2017.

“This net loss was primarily due to share-based payments of US$14.4 million,” according to the company.

“These share-based expenses were incurred primarily for options granted to employees and directors who had worked for and developed the company over the years.

“Other expenses were principally due to operating expenses to continue the construction of the research technology and processing center, and to grow and harvest the plants. Additionally, operating expenses were incurred in Canada for legal, travel and other fees incurred in order to facilitate the capital raise to complete the plan of arrangement,” according to PharmaCielo.

Meanwhile, a processing facility in Colombia “is on track for commercial operation and GMP [good manufacturing practices] certification during third quarter 2019, enabling large-scale production and sale of refined cannabis oil,” according to the company.

“Currently, 10 hectares [of marijuana] are under active cultivation, expanding to 20 hectares (around 2.15 million square feet) by year-end 2019, backed by 20 proprietary registered strains and 186 strains in the company’s germplasm bank,” according to the company..

“We are expanding our cultivation and processing operations to begin commercial sales of refined cannabis oil in 2019, having already received more inbound requests for product than we are able to fulfill in the near term,” added PharmaCielo CEO David Attard.

“We are ready to sell, with sales licensing and ISO 9001 certification in place and an initial 20 proprietary strains registered for commercial production. We anticipate the completion of our first major processing expansion in second-quarter and our GMP certification in third quarter.”

Last month, PharmaCielo announced that its Colombian subsidiary had received approval from the national cultivar registry for the listing of 10 proprietary cannabis strains.

“This brings the number of approved strains held by PharmaCielo to 20, following the company’s February 6, 2019 announcement of the approval of an initial 10 strains. PharmaCielo is the largest holder of approved strains in Colombia,” according to the company.

Hundreds of Pending Solicitations in Colombia

Meanwhile, according to a related April 18 report from business newspaper La Republica, Colombia’s Health Ministry and its Justice Ministry so far have processed 450 national applications to investigate, produce and/or export various types of medical marijuana extracts.

Research on the true utility, safety, efficacy and applicability of various extracts of marijuana for various medical problems is still at a relatively primitive stage, the report cautioned.

While Colombia currently enjoys 44% of the global medical-marijuana export allotments controlled and overseen by the United Nations, in actuality this allotment currently only totals the equivalent of about four-to-five hectares of marijuana production, the report noted, quoting PharmaCielo-Colombia president Federico Cock-Correa.

For profitable export marketing, more important than the total amounts currently allowed are the types and specific qualities of cannabis extracts produced, he added.


Pacifico 2 La Pintada update April 2019

Thursday, 11 July 2019 17:48 Written by

‘Pacifico 2,’ ‘Transversal de Las Americas’ Nearing Completion; Medellin Connections Improve

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced April 10, 2019 the completion of a 14-kilometers-long, four-lane divided highway stretch between La Pintada and Puente Iglesias -- part of the 96-kilometers-long “Pacifico 2” upgrades linking Medellin southwestward toward the Pacific.

The latest completions also include a new, two-lane bypass around La Pintada (enabling travelers heading to or from Bolombolo to avoid the knotted city center) and 15 new bridges along the route, according to ANI.

The upgrades also will ease travels from La Pintada to Támesis, Valparaíso, Jericó, Fredonia, Venecia and Puente Iglesias, ANI noted.

Thanks to the latest upgrades, “Pacífico 2 highway has now completed two of five functional units and has achieved a total progress of 65%, which is 9% ahead of schedule,” according to ANI.

The entire “Pacífico 2” project – estimated for completion around mid-2020 -- is budgeted at COP$1.6 trillion (US$ million) including 42.5 kilometers of new roads, 2.5-kilometers of tunnel-ways (including the pioneering Tunel de Mulatos), 54 kilometers of rehabilitated roads and 43 bridges, the agency noted.

Transversal de las Américas (TdA) Update

On a related front, ANI announced April 8 that the 850-kilometers-long Transversal de las Américas (TdA) highway is now 97% complete, boosting freight-traffic efficiency between Antioquia and northern Atlantic ports.

“Among the works that will be ready this year are the new bridge over the Cimitarra River, which has an approximate length of 230 meters, as well as 30 kilometers of new road in the Cantagallo-San Pablo sector (Bolívar) and the completion of a second road in the Montería-El Quince sector (Córdoba),” according to ANI.

“With the transversal, the quality of life of the inhabitants of the regions of Magdalena, Antioquia, Córdoba, Bolívar, Sucre and Cesar improves,” the agency added.

Connecting roads along the transversal will improve travel to Urabá, Apartadó-Carepa and Currulao-Reposo, including a new, 26-kilometers-long road built in the sector of Turbo-Chigorodó due for completion in July, according to ANI.

The entire TdA project includes a new, connecting highway of 38.6 kilometers in length; another 138-kilometers-long stretch of new, two-lane road including two vehicular bridges over 200 meters in length; the 511-meters-long Talaigua Nuevo bridge; the new Cimitarra River bridge still under construction; and rehabilitation of existing roads along the route, according to ANI.

“In addition, it is expected that, along with projects such as the Túnel del Toyo and the Autopistas al Mar 1 (Medellín-Santa Fe de Antioquia-Cañasgordas-Santa Fe de Antioquia-Bolombolo) and Mar 2 (Cañasgordas-El Tigre- Necoclí), the Transversal de las Américas contributes to reducing travel time in the Medellín-Turbo logistics hub from seven to four hours,” according to ANI.


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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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